Meen pappas

By Bhuwan Bhatt

Meen pappas is a Keralan dish of pan-seared sea bass in a coconut, onion and tamarind “papas” sauce, served here with curry leaf-infused potato mash. It’s a regular on the menu at Bromley restaurant Cinnamon Culture. Although the recipe is for just one, it can be easily scaled up to feed a larger party.
Serves 1


Fish marinade

  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 fresh curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 boneless sea bass fillet, cleaned and cut in half

Potato mash

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp split, skinned Urad daal
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 5g chopped ginger
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 curry leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 large potato boiled, peeled and grated

Pappas sauce

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 10g crushed ginger
  • 10g crushed garlic
  • 2-3 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp tamarind extract
  • 300ml coconut milk
  • Salt, to taste


  • 1 stem fresh curry leaves, fried in a little oil
  • Loose mint sauce


Mix together all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, then add the sea bass pieces and gently coat the fish. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the potato mash. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed, shallow pan set over medium heat, then add the mustard seeds and urad daal, and cook briefly until they crackle. Add chopped onion and ginger, green chilli, and curry leaves, reduce the heat to low and sauté for 2 minutes.

Add the turmeric and salt, then mix in the grated potato and cook for 2 minutes. Check seasoning. Remove from heat, keep warm until ready to plate.

For the pappas sauce, heat the oil in a casserole dish set over a medium heat, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and cook briefly until they crackle. Add the crushed ginger, garlic, and curry leaves, and sauté until light brown.

Add the turmeric, Kashmiri chilli powder and chopped tomatoes, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tamarind pulp and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk, bring the sauce to the boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. The sauce should have the consistency of double cream – add a little water to dilute if necessary. Check seasoning, then switch off heat and keep warm until ready to serve.

When ready to eat, remove the fish from the refrigerator. Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan set over high heat and sear the fish on both sides until the flesh turns opaque and flakes easily.

To serve the dish, mound the potato mash onto a warmed, deep dish (use a measuring cup for neat presentation), pour the sauce around the mash, and place the seared fish pieces on the top.

Garnish with the fried curry leaves, drizzle a little mint sauce on top, and serve immediately.


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