Vanjaram fish fry / king fish fry (restaurant style)

Vanjaram meen varuval (king fish fry) is very famous in south India and you will find this in every restaurant menu. In my mother-in-law's house, if fish fry it means first it has to be vanjaram fish (king fish), then sankara (red snapper) and other fish. Vanjaram fish is a firm fish and has one bone and is easy to eat also. Vanjaram fish fry tastes delicious. I have already shown many fish fry recipes, which you can try with vanjaram fish also.

In this vanjaram fish fry, I have used special masala for frying, which gives different taste, flavour and crunchiness to the fish fry. This is my husband’s favourite fish fry. While cooking this big fillet fish, I remember my trip to Andaman and Nicobar islands where I tasted vanjaram fish fry and fish curry too, though I don’t remember the taste. 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.

For this vanjaram fish fry, I have marinated the fish with few spices and then fried the fish by sprinkling the other freshly ground masala. The special ground masala smells like idli podi. You can either sprinkle this special ground masala on the fillet while frying the fish or sprinkle or rub on the fish as a second marinade and then fry. Try this vanjaram fish fry - it is very delicious, tasty and spicy.

Preparation time: 20 mins (does not include time to marinate)

Cooking time: 10 - 12 mins per fillet

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Serves: 2

Spiciness: Hot


  1. King fish – 4 big fillets (500 gms)
  2. First marinade

  3. Chilli powder – 2 tsp
  4. Coriander powder – 2 tsp
  5. Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
  6. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  7. Salt - as per taste
  8. Lemon juice – 2 tsp
  9. Ground masala (second marinade)

  10. Urad dal (split black gram) - 3 tsp
  11. Dry chillies (seedless) – 2
  12. Curry leaves – 7 to 8
  13. Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
  14. Black pepper corns – 1/2 tsp
  15. Salt - as per taste


  1. Take a dry pan, add urad dal, black pepper corns, fennel seeds, curry leaves and roast on low flame. Roast until colour changes and curry leaves become crisp and aroma comes.
  2. Allow it to cool and grind it with a little salt to a coarse powder. Keep it aside.
  3. First marinate the fish with the first marinade, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours.
  4. For the freshly ground masala, I opted 2 methods.
  5. First one is - use the ground masala as a second marinade. Rub the masala on each fish fillet to cover the fillets and then fry it.
  6. Second is - when the marinated fish is placed on the tava or pan for frying, sprinkle 1/2 to 3/4 tsp (or as required) of the ground masala.
  7. I did both and both tasted delicious.
  8. Take the marinated fish out of the refrigerator about 1/2 hour in advance before frying.
  9. Frying the fish

  10. Heat the tava or pan, add sufficient oil for shallow frying. When hot, place the marinated fish, one big slice at a time and cook for about 2 mins.
  11. Sprinkle the ground masala on top of the fish, flip or turn the fish and let it cook for about 2 mins.
  12. Sprinkle the ground masala on top of the fish again, turn and cook for another 2 mins so that the masala is well attached to the fish. Cook the fish until it is cooked well.
  13. After every few minutes turn the fish piece, give 1 1/2 minutes to 2 minutes time gap before each time you turn.
  14. Cook the fish until it is cooked well. The coating becomes dark red in colour and also becomes crispy.
  15. Turn the fish regularly while frying. Fry the fish evenly. Do not turn the fish too many times.
  16. Fish gets cooked fast. When the fish is cooked it becomes firm.
  17. I have cut the other slice of fish into small pieces, coated with the ground masala on both sides and cooked the fish on both sides on tava with a drizzle of oil every now and then when needed.
  18. Do not turn the fish immediately, otherwise the coating will come out.
  19. Fry all the fish pieces in batches and when finished, place it on a plate.
  20. In the end while frying the last batch of the fish I just added a few curry leaves in the same oil to use them for garnishing. The crispy and crunchy taste of curry leaves taste delicious.
  21. Serve this delicious vanjaram masala fish fry with onion rings and lemon wedge.


  1. Try to use a tong for turning the fish.
  2. You can use small piece of fillet or big but the cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the fish.
  3. When the fish is cooked on one side, only then turn the fish.
  4. Put the fish on the tava only when the oil is hot. Otherwise, the masala will stick to the tava and come out.
  5. Cook on a medium heat and not on very high heat. Reduce the flame a bit once the oil is hot.