Tuesday, March 27, 2012

#198 Bringing back a Traditional 'Avial' with Anchovies

When I was vacationing in Kerala last year, I noticed that many authentic dishes were disappearing from family dinner tables. It has become the norm to eat 'fast-food', pizza, burgers and carry-out since almost everyone is caught up in their own busy schedules. Traditional dishes such as this, made with fresh anchovies are rarely appearing on dinner tables anymore. This old Kerala favorite used to be made almost once a week when fresh anchovies were available.  The coconut based gravy with raw mango, chilli, shallots and loads of curry leaves fills the house with a beautiful aroma and reminds me of my grandmother's home. The curry used to be served with steamed rice and other vegetable sides for lunch. So when I found dried anchovies at the Asian market I could not think of a more appropriate dish than this,  resembling the fresh ones from Kerala.

Fresh or Dried Anchovies- 2 cups
Freshly grated coconut- 1 cup
Shallots- 4
Raw mango- sliced along with the skin
Green chillies- 4 sliced
Ginger- 1 inch piece chopped fine
Chili powder- 1 tspn
Coriander powder- 1/2 tspn
Turmeric Powder- 1/2 tspn
Methi or Fenugreek Powder- 1/4 tspn
Curry leaves
Salt to taste.

1. If using fresh anchovies just clean and wash them removing the head and insides of the fish. If you prefer to use dried anchovies, please refer to my recipe here Dried Anchovies Thoran
2. Grind to a coarse paste the following- coconut, shallots, chili, turmeric and coriander powder.
3. To a small pan, add this paste and the methi powder, green chillis, salt and sliced raw mango.
4. Add 1 cup water and let cook for about 15 mins. Add the prepared and cleaned anchovies.
5. Allow the curry to cook together until the fish absorbs all the spices from the gravy and thickens well. There should be barely any liquid left.Add curry leaves and mix well. Serve with steamed rice and vegetable side dishes of your choice.


  1. Love presentation & great recipe, Malli! I love anchovies! Good to see u busy in the kitchen. Hugs XOXO, Shirley

  2. It looks just beautiful and rich! i love the colors and i am one of the few in my whole family who actually love anchovies!

  3. Don't think I ever had the joy of using fresh anchovies before - only preserved ones. I'd love to give them a try ... the dish looks really tasty!

  4. If you have been reading my posts lately I mentioned that I love south Indian Food, all regions. I have a friend who is from orissa who uses jaggery in her dishes her husband is from Mangalore, then he also makes food spicy without jaggery.Isn't that interesting. When I have friends like that you can imagine how much I love south Indian style cooking.
    The use of coconut just fascinates me.


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