Semolina crusted fish, one of my favorite starters for an Indian meal . . . or any meal for that matter!!

March 28th, 2012

about ajoy

i’ve been a chef for over three decades now! i trained in chennai and started off with the taj hotel group. i’ve owned nilgiri’s indian restaurant in sydney for over 15 years. i’m on a mission to dispel the myth that indian food is no more than a ‘curry in a hurry’! come with me as i try and educate. indian food is my passion (alongside cricket!) and i’m enjoying exploring the new social media to fulfil this passion! i’ve also published cookery books, been on tv, the radio, won awards! now i’m also moving into making cookery videos. these are simple and easy to follow and don’t go on for hours like some Bollywood movies!

During one of my travels through the west coast/ghats of India in 1987/88, I was on the lookout for food that would not only be unique in taste and texture but also have a story to tell.

This tour was so that I could find different and highly specialised cuisines that we could then adapt for the luxury seafood restaurant we were running in Bangalore and so the food had to be excellent and different. Was I keen to go on this Grand Gastronomique Fish Tour? You bet!

Well, I was led to places like Dharwad, famous for its milk based desserts called peda, but that is not what I was looking for, whilst delicious, it was too simple a dish to sell in a ‘world class’ restaurant.

In Mangalore I found among other delicacies, neer dosa, a kind of rice flour dosai served with kori gassi  which was perfect to feature as a main course, but I was looking for a starter with seafood.

My friend, KK Shiva, had recommended a place called Coondapoor famous for its usha restaurant. He had also warned me to get there early as the restaurant is famous for a fried fish called kane rava fry which is sold out even before it is sold, if you know what I mean!

The owner of the restaurant, Mr Shetty, does not take any bookings so it is on a first come first served basis. Cool!!

Well, I was not going to miss out on this experience and I was extremely lucky to get the last of the ‘KRF’.

The kane fish (also called lady fish), is extremely delicate and has to kept alive till it is ready to be cooked. There is no scientific reason for this except that the usha restaurant has no refrigerators!!

Once killed, the fish must be massaged with oil which keeps the fish soft and prevents it from curling!!

The gutted fish then gets smeared with a masala called coondapoor masala, coated with semolina and fried.

What then appears is the best ‘crumbed’ fish I had ever eaten!!

This dish had to feature in our new restaurant and was sure to be a winner!!

The restaurant, by the way, is called ‘Karavalli’ and even though I left the restaurant over 25 years ago, this fish dish has never left the menu!!

Now, nearly 25 years down the line I serve a version similar to the KRF in Nilgiri’s in Sydney, on special occasions, but I use a local fish called barramundi.

This fish has a very earthy flavour and can be very easily crumbed. I love to eat it, served with a mint and coriander chatni!! For a one page version of this recipe click semolina crust fish recipe. For a step by step recipe, keep reading!

Step 1

ingredients, clockwise: salt, turmeric powder, garam masala for fish, fresh chillies ground, tamarind extract, fresh chillies slit lengthways, fried kari leaves, red (Spanish) onions, sliced

Step 2

2-inch squares of barramundi

Step 3

fine to medium coarse semolina

Step 4

oil for frying

Step 5

to finish – lemon juice and chopped parsley


add salt

Step 7

add add turmeric
add turmeric and garam masala

Step 8

add ground chillies
add tamarind extract

Step 9

mix spices into a masala or marinade

Step 10

coat each fish piece in the masala

Step 11

apply masala on both sides, or just one if you prefer

Step 12

dust fish in semolina

Step 13

add oil to hot pan and heat until it starts smoking

Step 14

carefully place each fish piece in the hot oil

Step 15

cook till the semolina is golden

Step 16

carefully turn fish over to cook both sides evenly, taking care not to damage semolina crust

Step 17

keep frying

Step 18

fry until fish crust turns a dark golden colour

Step 19

drain each fish piece of oil

Step 20

prepare bed of Spanish onion and chopped coriander, fried kari leaves with a dash of lemon juice, to serve

Step 21


Serve this as a part of your Easter Special and watch the resurrection of . . . happen in front of your eyes!!

Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!


  1. Gary Smith

    cant wait to try this interesting read

  2. Ajoy Joshi

    Hello Deepti,
    Thanks for your email and apologies for the delay.
    Yes, the recipe is the same as Karwari Fish excepted that it is not coated with semolina. Addition of ginger garlic is important but not necessary, especially if the fish is delicate. We use ling fillets for this particular dish.
    Happy cooking!!

  3. Deepti Jotwani

    Hi Ajoy, I visited your deewan e aam buffet on 7 Dec. Everything was delicious but for me tali macchi and laccha pyaaz was my fav. Can you please tell me which fish was used in that recipe and was the recipe same as karwari fish recipe. Also why there is no use of ginger garlic paste at all. I am a big fan of your restaurant. Please share your secret recipe of tali macchi 🙂

  4. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Ruchira,
    A delicate fish like flat head, or barramundi or snapper needs to be marinated and used asap. this prevents the moisture from draining out of the fish and there by making it dry. The semolina will not char if the temperature of the oil is moderate to high, meaning, when you drop a small amount of semolina into the hot oil it only submerges half way through and comes back to the surface. Try it and you should get it!!
    Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!

  5. Ruchira

    Chef, I have two questions – 1. How long should you marinate the fish and 2. Doesn’t the semolina char a bit? What if I want it golden, can I mix it with something?

  6. Spiceroots

    Snapper it is. I live in landlocked Colorado, no chance of finding any exotic fish here. But Snapper – I have no trouble finding!
    Thank you!

  7. Ajoy Joshi

    Hi Ansh,
    You may try cod. But personally I prefer snapper, flat head, or even ling fish,a non oily fish. Try garfish if you can get one!
    Happy cooking!!!

  8. Spiceroots

    Interesting read as usual. What fish can I substitute for barramundi? I am thinking Cod ?

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