Maachi Paka (Fish in Savory Coconut Curry)

Maachi Paka served here with basmati rice

Like all my other recipes, I have several versions of Maachi Paka. I have chosen to post this one since I can easily find all the ingredients here and I like the texture of this curry. Just as an f.y.i, the others call for a whole fish, with skin, to be barbecued outdoors before being dipped into the coconut curry.

Recipe: Maachi Paka

Also known as: Fish Paka/Samaki wa Nazi/Maachi Naryal Waru

Categories: Main Dishes; seafood

Accompaniments: Plain rice/Coconut Rice/Mahambri (Mandazi)/Mkate wa Sinia

Servings: 3-4


For the fish marinade:

  • 400 gms fillet of a white flesh fish such as tilapia, halibut, snapper, king fish (I’m guessing any white fish would do)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 green chili, diced (optional)

For the coconut curry:

  • 1 1/2 cup of coconut milk (I use the canned kind)
  • 1/2 fresh tomato (do not substitue with canned tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 3 Tbsp of tamarind paste/ambli*
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 green chili (optional)

* Use 3 Tbsp if making tamarind paste using the instructions found here. If you are using store-bought tamarind paste, you made need less or more depending on how concentrated the pulp is.

For the garnish:

  • 1 large potato, cut into large cubes and fried or boiled with some turmeric


This recipe calls for a two steps, cooking the fish on its own and making the curry on its own. Then the two get ‘married.’

For the fish:

  • Defrost the fish in cold water if using frozen fish. Soak in water with some lemon juice, rinse and pat dry.

Tilapia loins

  • Mix the ingredients for the fish marinade in a little bowl (garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, green chili).

Marinade for the fish

  • Rub the marinade all over the fish and place in an oven-proof, greased dish. Dab some oil on the surface of the fish. Let the fish marinate for some time in the fridge.

Marinating the fish

  • Bake the fish in a preheated oven at 375° F for 10 min or until just done. Turn up the oven to broil setting and broil the top of the fish. Don’t over-cook the fish, or it will become tough.
  • Transfer the fish into and oven-proof serving dish. If you would like to add some smoky flavor to the fish (dhwani/fukiza), you can do so now. For instructions on how to do this, please see instructions at: Smoky Flavor/Dhwani/Fukiza. This is an optional step.

The baked fish

For the curry:

  • Add all the ingredients listed under “For the coconut curry” in a blender (coconut milk, tomato, garlic paste, tamarind paste, lemon juice, salt, turmeric) and blend till fully incorporated. If you do not have tamarind paste, you can add some more lemon juice.

Blend the coconut milk and other ingredients

  • In a small non-stick pot, pour the coconut milk and bring to a slow boil while stirring and let it boil for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. By this time, the coconut should have thickened a bit. Taste check. You can add any more of the garlic/lemon/salt/chili to your liking.
  • In my experience, the thickening of the coconut really depends on the type of coconut milk you are using. If yours doesn’t thicken, make a smooth paste  from 1 tsp of white flour/gram flour and some water and then add it to the coconut mixture and continually stir, the curry should thicken up.

The coconut curry

  • When its done, take the curry off the stove and add to the fish.
  • Place the (now coated with coconut curry) fish back into the oven at 250° F and heat through for 5-10 mins. This allows the fish to better absorb the coconut flavor. Alternatively, you can add the fish to the coconut gravy and simmer for a few minutes. I don’t do this since I fear the fish breaking apart.



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