Chônkaelo Masalo

Cook this simple incredibly versatile Parsee-style gravy and use for this tasty fish curry
By Cyrus Todiwala
Chônkaelo Masalo
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Effort: easy


  • 2-3 tbsp rapeseed oil or sunflower oil
  • 2-3 green cardamom pods, squeezed open
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 3 inch piece cassia bark
  • 2 large dried red chillies
  • 2 long fresh green chillies, sliced lengthways into four slices
  • 3 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2-3 onions, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4-5 tomatoes, pulped (or use good canned tomatoes)

For the fish curry

  • 1 tins coconut milk
  • 300 g prawns, (or fish of your choice) per person

Tips and Suggestions

This masala can form the basis for many using meat fish poultry and vegetables. It is simple and easy to prepare and the old-fashioned pots and fires they had in India were ideal for this dish to cook for hours at a time. It then became self preserved as there was no refrigeration around. If made well and cooked slowly it will easily last for a week after cooking if well chilled and packed in an airtight container. If frozen in small batches it can last months. The best fish is any white fleshed fish such as Pollock, coley etc (as in most Indian cooking), as well as sardines and mackerel, and high end fish as well such as prawns, mussels etc.


1. For the gravy: heat the oil in a casserole and fry the cardamom, cloves and cassia bark for 2-3 minutes, or until the cloves begin to swell. Add the red chilli and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the spices begin to darken.

2. Remove the spices and chillies to a small plate and add the green chilli, ginger and garlic to the pan. Fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic begins to turn golden, then add the onions and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are softened.

3. In a bowl, mix together the cumin, coriander and turmeric and mix with 150-200ml of water. Add this to the casserole dish. Cook for 5-6 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and cook for a further 15 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat.

4. For the fish curry: stir the coconut milk into the pan of gravy until smooth and creamy. Bring to the boil, then add the prawns (or fish of your choice) and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the prawns are cooked through.

5. Serve the fish curry with steamed rice.

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