Mathi Vattichathu – Sardines Poached To Dry –Kerala Style



Acclaimed author of many cook books, Food and Wine editor of  Town&Country for over two decades, James Villas wrote in an article called Unsung Sardines – Ounce for ounce, sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more protein than steak, more potassium than bananas, and more iron than cooked spinach.  Now, even if I hadn’t read that, I still would assume that these little silver slender beauties had to have high authority in terms of nutrition in order to find their way to my health freak sister Sony’s table every other day ;).  Frankly for me, the nutrition aspect is just an added bonus. I simply love them for their unparalleled flavor.

Fresh sardines are found in plenty in Kerala and hence are cooked very often, usually poached or grilled. Fresh sardines however have been hard to find for me over here. But I do manage to get some good ones at Whole Foods or at my local Chinese market. All my recipes use fresh sardines and since I’ve never used the canned kind I cannot comment about how my recipes might turn out with them.This recipe can of course be tried with any other fish too. Sardines are only ‘my’ preference :).


1 lb sardines cleaned and slit a couple of times on the sides
2 tsp red chili powder (base it on tolerable  spice levels)
1 tsp paprika (mainly for the red color) 
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed powder
5- 6 shallots finely sliced  
1.5 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
2 kudampulli (camboge fruit rinds)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 sprigs of curry leaves
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 –3 tbsp coconut oil /any vegetable refined oil
salt to taste


  • Soak kudampulli in a cup of hot salt water and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan and add black mustard seeds, when they pop add in the curry leaves and powdered fenugreek seeds
  • Add sliced shallot and sauté till golden brown.
  • Add  ginger -garlic paste and sauté till oil separates.
  • Mix together chili powder, paprika and turmeric powder in a little warm water to make a smooth paste, add to the pan and sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add soaked kudampulli along with the water and allow it to boil for a few minutes.
  • Add the fish pieces.
  • Add salt, close the lid and let it boil again.
  • Once the water boils, reduce the flame and let it simmer for about 15– 20 minutes until all/most of the water evaporates and the gravy thickens.
  • Season again with 2 finely sliced shallots fried deep in 1 tsp of coconut oil, mustard and curry leaves if desired.
  • Serve with Rice or Kappa
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    One Response to “Mathi Vattichathu – Sardines Poached To Dry –Kerala Style”

    1. sneha says:

      hey julie, i’m a huge fan of kerala sea food curries and i’m so gald you added the seafood category in your has made a huge difference while searching your site for me. thnx

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