Tag Archives: thokku

Rice with Meen Kuzhambu/Fish Curry

This can be a quick and easy sunday non-vegetarian meal – not to waste much of the precious weekend family time in the kitchen. One can also make this meen curry on a friday/saturday evening and store for the next day lunch/brunch! I don’t think this can be called an exact kuzhambu as generally kuzhambu is a thinner version. This can be fish in a thick gravy/thokku! Add more water and it can be converted to a simple kuzhambu.




The word ‘curry’

Curry has become a very popular and sort after word in the UK and many parts around the world…


The earliest apparent mention in print in the English language occurs in a translation (1598) of a Dutch traveller’s account of voyages in the E. and W. Indies. Referring to Indians, this text states that: ‘Most of their fish is eaten with rice, which they seeth in broth, which they put upon the rice, and is somewhat sour but it tasteth well and is called Carriel, which is their daily meat.’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/encyclopedia/definition/curry/730/


The word comes from “Kari” which is from the Tamil language and was later anglicized into “curry”. Curry powder itself is not a single spice but a blend of different spices and can be mild or hot. This golden colored spice is one of the oldest spice mixes and is most often associated with Indian cuisine. http://www.indepthinfo.com/curry/history.shtml


There is also another view to the origin of the word curry in english –


200 cooks and several philosophers were summoned by King Richard II to produce the first English cookery book ‘The Forme of Cury’ in 1390. The book contained 196 recipes. None of these recipes have any thing in common with Indian curries. ‘Cury’ was the Old English word meaning cuisine based on French ‘cuire’ meaning: to cook, boil, or grill.. After the cookery book, Cury became a popular part of English vocabulary. The term Cury became associated with stew. http://www.indiacurry.com/faqhistory/hfaqcurry.htm



 ‘Kari’ means Meat

The word ‘curry’ is believed to be the anglicized version of the tamil word ‘kari’. But, in Tamil, the word kari/curry might denote meat..

Kozhi kari kuzhambu means Chicken Gravy – where kozhi means chicken, kari means meat and kuzhambu means gravy;

Aatu kari kuzhambu means Lamb Gravy – Aadu means Lamb, kari kuzhambu means meat gravy;

The same applies for Meen kari kuzhambu where Meen means Fish; and 

Kothu Kari means Minced Meat.


Most people in the world today know what a curry is – or at least think they do. In Britain the term ‘curry’ has come to mean almost any Indian dish, whilst most people from the sub-continent would say it is not a word they use, but if they did it would mean a meat, vegetable or fish dish with spicy sauce and rice or bread. http://www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/curryhistory.html


Now, the Meen Curry. 

Meen Curry

Ingredients (serves four)

  • meen/fish – 500 gms (any variety – with bones or fillet as preferred)
  • garlic – 6 cloves
  • onions – 2 medium
  • tomato – 2 medium
  • tamarind – marble sized ball
  • red chilli powder – 2 tsp
  • coriander powder – 3 tsp
  • pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • salt – as needed
  • oil – 4 tbsp
  • kadugu/mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  • vendhayam/fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • curry leaves – a few




 Method of Preparation

  1. Clean the fish pieces; apply salt and turmeric powder and keep aside
  2. Finely chop garlic, onions and tomatoes separately
  3. Wash and soak tamarind in 1 cup hot water
  4. Heat oil in an iruppu chatti/Pan
  5. Add mustard seeds, when they splutter add fenugreek seeds and curry leaves
  6. Add chopped garlic, onions and tomatoes and fry for a while
  7. Add turmeric, chilli, pepper and coriander powders and salt and fry well
  8. Strain the tamarind and add the pulp
  9. Cook till the raw smell of spices and tamarind goes away
  10. Add the fish pieces and let the fish cook in the pan with closed lid in sim position
  11. The fish would be cooked in 5 -7 minutes or a little more
  12. Thicken the gravy if needed or add some water to make it thinner
  13. Serve hot with rice.




  1. After the fish is washed, a paste of turmeric powder and salt is rubbed over the fish pieces and kept for at least 1/2 an hour
  2. Soak tamarind in hot water to easily get the pulp or paste
  3. Meen Kuzhambu tastes best when made in an earthen pot.

Kozhi Thokku/Chicken Thokku

This is my first non-vegetarian recipe. Born in a vegetarian family, married into a non-vegetarian family, a cook in true spirit, I am now a non-vegetarian – who likes to experiment on chicken, fish and lamb dishes but would prefer a vegetarian diet for myself. 

As a teenager, though I had tasted chicken secretly (inquisitive to know what it tasted like) with cousins (of course our parents know it all now), bringing meat home and cooking was not an acceptable thing initially.  When I was married I was a complete vegetarian – not even eggs were allowed!  Times have changed since then.

These are some of the reasons why I continue cooking non-vegetarian food –

1. When I started cooking non-veg. food, I found that chicken and lamb struck very well with any masala and gave remarkable results. So, not knowing anything about the intricacies of speciality non-veg. cooking of Tamilnadu, I used (and still use) the same methods of cooking vegetarian spicy dishes and was successful too.

2.  Initially when I started hosting – I could sense that the buffet table was kind of incomplete without the non-vegetarian dish. Even with a lavish spread of vegetarian items, one non-veg. dish did some unexplainable magic.

3. Especially when kids were invited, they were delighted or (if I sound too self-praising) – they were satisfied with rice and chicken  or rice and lamb curry. This made it easier for parents too.

4. This one I think should have topped the list. When my husband introduced me to his well wishers as his newly wed wife, while they welcomed me into the set-up, they expressed their concern about the taste buds of the man of the house and his survival without  chicken, lamb or fish at least once a week. Wherever I was invited, even people whom I met for the first time, took so much care to make me understand how difficult it was to live without chicken and fish, more difficult to live with a wife who wouldn’t cook all those humble curries and the most difficult – to ask (request?!) the newly wed wife to cook some chicken curry where the man knows nothing about cooking!

5. Of course reason no.4 did not make me cook chicken curry – but I must confess – the nature of my husband to forgo non-vegetarian food to make me comfortable made me try this in full swing and I remember I cooked a simple lamb curry and rice as a surprise lunch (taught by one of those friends).  How bad he felt to have put me in such a terrible situation cooking something alien and the big lecture I received on that are different episodes of the story!

It was first ‘cooking for friends but not tasting technique’;  Then came, ‘tasting the gravy to serve but not eating technique’; Then, there was enlightenment – cooking, tasting, eating and more cooking, tasting and eating! It is a stress free life now!

So, ‘forgoing non-veg. food for vegetarian wife technique’ did it all!! 

So, the first call I made was to my mother-in-law and told her I started cooking non-veg. at home.  A very caring mom-in-law that she still is, told me to stop. Though she was happy for her son, she didn’t want me to take the trouble as I grew in a vegetarian family – she didn’t want my parents to feel bad too. Like a true enlightened soul, I stuck to my new Principle. Since then, she has been my special tutor in non-vegetarian studies – especially in the art of cleaning and marinating meat and the special fish kuzhambu – which I have not perfected even after so many years.

So, now to some cooking –

Kozhi Thokku/Chicken Thokku

Thokku can be a thick  gravy or a thick paste. With medium or high level spice, this can go well with rice, chappatis or idli/dosas. Unlike chutneys which are ground to pastes and served immediately, thokkus are cooked for a long time to make it a pasty consistency – and are quite filling too. There can be vegetarian and non-vegetarian thokkus. They can also be stored for at least three days due to the thickening process involved. Certain pickles are made in the thokku form and can be stored for months.

This chicken thokku is an aromatic,  flavourful dish – simple and easy to cook too.

Ingredients (serves 2 persons)

  • kozhi/chicken – 400 gms
  • oil – 2 tbsp
  • chopped coriander leaves – to garnish

Finely chop –

  • ginger – small piece
  • garlic – 4 cloves
  • onions – medium size – 2 no.s
  • tomato – small – 2 nos./big – 1 no.

Dry powders –

  • turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • red chili powder – 1 tsp (adjust according to spice need)
  • coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
  • garam masala – 1 tsp
  • salt – to taste

Optional –

  • finely chopped green chillies – 1 no. to make it more spicy
  • lemon juice – 2 tsp



Method of Preparation

  1. Clean, wash and cut chicken to medium size pieces. Chicken can be boneless or with bones as per family preference
  2. Chop ginger, garlic, onions and tomatoes separately
  3. Usage of more tomatoes makes the colour reddish, consistency pulpy and reduces the taste of garam masala. What we need is a dark brownish colour with a thick paste consistency with the aromatic flavour of garam masala intact. Hence, if the tomato is big, take one and use two if small in size
  4. Heat oil in an Iruppu chatti/Kadai
  5. Fry chopped ginger and garlic till golden brown
  6. Add chopped onions and fry till golden brown
  7. Add chopped tomatoes and all the dry powders one after the other
  8. Mix well and sprinkle little water, not to allow chicken to burn at the bottom of the kadai
  9. Close the kadai and cook in sim position
  10. With the lid closed, chicken would release water and let it cook in the same released gravy
  11. Add very little water if chicken sticks to the kadai. Normally, no extra water would be required
  12. When chicken is done, open the lid and cook till gravy thickens
  13. When a semi thick gravy consistency arrives, it would start coating the chicken; When the coating becomes thicker and turns to dark brown in colour, thokku is done
  14. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice, chappatis, idlis or dosais


  1. Chopped green chillies can be added along with dry powders to make thokku more spicy. This is purely optional.
  2. One might also add some lemon juice after the stove is turned off. This would give a tangy flavour to the spicy chicken thokku
  3. The quantity of chili powder can be altered according to the spice level of chillies and need of the family.