Mathi Mulakittathu – Sardines in Spicy Sauce

OK, now when I say “sardine” or “mathi” as it is called in Malayalam, you will see my frowning face. Whatever said and done about the goodness of this abundantly available fish, I have a love-hate relationship with it. Before marriage, I used to not touch it. The days when umma fries it for lunch, my B and me would have a different fish. Unusual of umma, who would never ever do it for any other types of food, but when it comes to fish, since she’s an ardent fish lover, she would do it for us – and yes, does it still! I just wouldn’t stand the smell of it and hated the clean up required to eat it. The first time umma made me cut sardines, I almost fainted! Yeah, that time it was really serious… as I type this now, I can’t help smiling… umma was like, “When will you ever learn to cut fish?”


Post marriage – we landed in Payyoli in the sweltering heat of summer in April 10 years ago and come to see, the fish of the month was sardine, and nothing else. You can imagine my horror. Being in a brand new place, brand new home, brand new people who thought I was somebody who eats anything – yes, I do eat everything, except this!!! Sheesh… – my HD wanted to inform them that I didn’t eat sardine, but I just refrained him from doing so, as I didn’t want to spoil my “first impression-best impression”. Still not being able to look at the fried sardine on the lunch table, I had a piece from the fish curry that was served. Finished, I picked up and served myself a couple more and I was wondering to myself, “Darn, what am I doing?” Finally I was eating sardine in the curry, but definitely not the fried. Till date, I have my sardine only curried, I still cannot stand it fried, I really don’t know why!!! During the initial days of marriage, my HD used to cut the fish for me and clean it so that I only had to cook, but gradually I have started doing it on my own, without the fainting thamasha, of course! πŸ™‚


Didn’t I bore you all? Following the kappa puzhukku recipe of yesterday, this is one curry that goes awesomely well it – definitely the first and the best marriage, I would say! No other fish curry would go well, than this spicy red sardine curry… It goes well with rice as well, which we often have along with the manja curry (yellow curry) I posted some time back… Off to the way I learned to make it from umma, of course… πŸ™‚


Here is another variant to this gravy… πŸ™‚



Mathi Mulakittathu - Sardines in Spicy Sauce

Course Curry
Cuisine Malabar
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Author Rafeeda


  • 6 large sardines cleaned and cut or 8 small sardines
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 green chillies slit
  • 1 large tomato chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder increase for spiciness!
  • Water as required
  • 1 lime sized tamarind pc soaked in 1/2 cup of hot water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves


  • In a "chatti" (earthern pot), add the ingredients from onion to garlic paste and gently mash with your hands till it looks like a little mess.
  • Add the masala powders, salt and water (initially start with a cup, so that it doesn't become runny!) and mix well.
  • Bring to boil and cook on low flame till the curry is cooked.
  • Now add in the cut sardines and cook further till the fish is almost done.
  • Finally squeeze in the tamarind juice - discard the waste and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Switch off and proceed with tempering.
  • Heat coconut oil, splutter mustard seeds and briefly fry the curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. Pour into the prepared curry and leave with closed lid for five minutes for the flavors to incorporate.
  • Devour with kappa puzhukku or rice...


Try to use what you call "neymathi" - sardines that have sufficient oil reserves in them. Normally the big ones are like that. They taste the best when cooked this way.
It is not necessary you make this only with sardines. Mackerel and other small fishes taste as good!

Join the Conversation

  1. LOL @ your Sardine story!! It is a nice idea to make it curried..

    1. Thank you so much Pankthi…

  2. I cant imagine having kappa puzhuku without this mathi mulaikittathu,both makes a prefect pair.

    1. Oh yes, it does akka… thanks a lot…

  3. Ha ha, Thats a wonderful story. I have many friends you still cannot stand the smell of Mathi πŸ™‚ But I love them, especially mulakittathu. Pinne Kappa koodi aayal pinne parayenda, Yumm!!

    1. Thank you so much Pathibha… πŸ™‚

  4. kappa puzhukkum mathi curriyum.. Kothippikkalle..

    1. Thank you so much Lisha…

  5. Great mathi katha……v all are the same not to loose the first impression best impression πŸ™‚ …….ur mathi mulakittathu is tempting me….2 day with my lunch, definitely gonna miss this…..

    1. Thank you so much Remya… πŸ™‚

  6. I am a big fan of fried sardines! But its so difficult to find the fresh ones here :-(…Curry looks delicious Rafee.

    1. Thank you so much Jehanne dee…

  7. The same thing happened to me with mushrooms, I hated them before marriage but had to force myself to eat at my in laws house since I did not want to spoil the impression I had created and ended up loving mushrooms to bits!
    Lovely dish!

    1. Thank you so much Beulah… umma always says, vaayil vechalalle taste ariyoo… hehe…

  8. When you say sardine the one thing that comes to my mind is this tinned sardines in tomato sauce. Hated it when I was a kid but am slowly learning to like it. Your curry looks delicious

    1. Thank you so much Nammi…

  9. Looks very tempting!

    1. Thank you so much Priya…

  10. Sardines are super healthy, too. This is such a flavorful meal!

    1. Thank you so much Jaspinder….

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