Sardines in Roasted Coconut Gravy

The phrase that comes to mind at the mention of sardines is, ‘packed like sardines’, the phrase originating from the way sardines are packed in a can. Never been a fan of canned sardines, though I have eaten some awesome pasta made with sardines from a can and a pesto sauce. Instead, I like to think of sardines as these beautiful schools of fish freely swimming in the vast oceans. Indeed, the sardines are gorgeous looking… slim and silvery, with bluish-greyish backs. And they are equally tasty – sorry, it seems very unfriendly to talk about the sardines being pretty and tasty in the same para! But then, I learned to appreciate their taste way before I learned to appreciate their beauty! 🙂


This is a curry made with sardines and roasted coconut. A staple in the state of Kerala, the spice combination can vary based on the region. This one uses fenugreek seeds as an ingredient along with the roasted coconut, which gives an extra depth to the flavours.


Another interesting ingredient is the bilimbi, the very sour fruit, often used in place of tamarind or tomatoes to provide tanginess.


The bilimbi fruits are a pale green colour, about two inches long, and grow abundantly in warm weather.


Cleaning the sardines is an art in itself… especially removing the scales, but nothing that cannot be accomplished with a bit of patience.


Along with the coconut, most of the other ingredients are roasted. And finely ground into a thick paste. The sardines are cooked in this paste so that the flavours thoroughly get into them.


And if you can manage to get an earthenware pan to cook this dish, nothing like it. The unique flavour imparted by the earthenware cannot be replicated any other way. Try it… 🙂



Sardines in Roasted Coconut Gravy
Recipe type: Seafood
  • 12 sardines, fresh
  • ½ a coconut, grated
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 12 shallots
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 green chillies
  • ½ inch piece ginger
  • 6 to 8 bilimbi fruit
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp cooking oil
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  1. Clean the sardines and wash thoroughly. Cut each sardine into two pieces if you like it so.
  2. Slice 6 of the shallots.
  3. Split the green chillies into two lengthwise.
  4. Cut the ginger into juliennes.
  5. Cut each bilimbi into six pieces lengthwise.
  6. Heat a largish pan, add a teaspoon of cooking oil, and when the oil is hot, add the grated coconut, garlic, 6 remaining shallots, and fenugreek seeds.
  7. Roast the till dark brown. Then add the coriander powder, chilli powder and turmeric powder and fry for another minute.
  8. Cool the roasted mixture and grind to a fine paste and place in a cooking pan.
  9. Add the sardines, green chillies, ginger and bilimbi pieces to the ground mix.
  10. Add salt to taste.
  11. Cook on a medium flame, stirring every now and then.
  12. When the sardines are done, remove from the heat. Add the springs of curry leaves.
  13. In a small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp oil.
  14. Add the sliced shallots and fry.
  15. When the shallots turn golden brown, add to the sardines along with the oil they were fried in.
  16. Mix together and enjoy with steamed rice.

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