Chettinadu fish fry

Chettinadu fish fry (Chettinadu meen varuval) is very famous in south India and you will find this in every chettinadu restaurant menu. In Chettinadu cuisine, special spices like nutmeg, black stone flower and fennel seeds are used and are quite important in the cuisine apart from other spices. This is my family’s favourite fish fry. When we order any fish fry in a restaurant, they serve only one piece of fish fry but it will be big in size, a thick fillet served with onion rings and lemon wedges.

Fish fry (meen varuval) means it has to be first vanjaram fish (king fish), pomfret then sankara (red snapper) and other fishes. Vanjaram fish is a firm fish and has only one bone and is easy to eat also. In this vanjaram fish fry, I have used chettinadu special masala for frying, which gives different taste, flavour and crunchiness to the fish fry.

For this vanjaram fish fry, I have marinated the fish with chettinadu spices, which is roasted and ground to powder. Try this chettinadu fish fry – it is very delicious, tasty, crunchy and spicy. You will get a restaurant style taste.

Preparation time: 30 mins (does not include time to marinate)

Cooking time: 8 – 10 mins per fillet

Cuisine: Chettinadu, Tamil Nadu

Serves: 3 to 4

Spiciness: Medium hot


  • King fish (fillets) – 350 gms
  • First marinade

  • Chilli powder – 1 tsp
  • Saffron or red colour (optional) – a pinch
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Chettinadu masala (roasting)

  • Urad dal (split black gram) – 1 tbsp
  • Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Dry chillies – 3
  • Curry leaves – 10
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
  • Black pepper corns – 1/2 tsp
  • Nutmeg – 1/4 tsp or a pinch or small green cardamom size
  • Dagad phool or black stone – 1 tsp
  • Salt – as per taste
  • Garnishing

  • Onion rings
  • Lemon slices
  • Curry leaves


  • I took king fish fillets and cut them in medium size pieces.
  • Take a dry pan. Add urad dal, black pepper corns, fennel seeds, curry leaves and roast on low flame until the colour changes, curry leaves become crisp and aroma comes.
  • Allow it to cool and grind it to a powder, but just a little coarse in texture. Keep it aside.
  • Transfer the chettinadu masala in a bowl. Add colour, salt, chilli powder, turmeric and mix well with a little water. The paste should neither be too thin nor too thick in texture.
  • Apply the marinate on the fish pieces, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
  • Take the fish out from the fridge about 1/2 hour in advance before frying.
  • Frying the fish

  • Heat the tava or pan. Add sufficient oil to shallow fry the fish. When hot, place the marinated fish, one by one and cook for about 2 mins, so that the marinade is well attached to the fish.
  • Cook the fish on medium heat, turn the fish and let it cook for about 2 mins.
  • After a few minutes, turn the fish pieces again. Give 1 1/2 to 2 mins time gap.
  • Cook the fish until it is cooked well. The coating becomes a dark reddish in colour and crispy as well.
  • Turn the fish in between and fry. Fry the fish evenly. Do not turn the fish many time. The fish gets cooked fast. When the fish is cooked it becomes firm.
  • Fry all the fish pieces in batches and when finished, place them on a plate.
  • In the end while frying the last batch of fish, I just added a few curry leaves in the same oil, just for garnishing. The crispy and crunchy taste of curry leaves taste delicious.
  • Serve this delicious chettinadu fish fry with onion rings and lemon wedge.


  • Try to use tongs for turning the fish.
  • You can use small piece of fillet or big but the cooking time depends on its size and thickness of the fish. Adjust cooking times accordingly.
  • When the fish is cooked on one side, only then turn the fish.
  • When the oil is hot, only then put the fish on tava. Otherwise, if it is cold, the masala will get stuck to the pan and come out.
  • Cook on a medium heat, not very high. Reduce the flame once the oil is hot.

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