Why does fish has fishy odour? – Sea trout in tomato, tamarind sauce / Fish Kolambu

Have you ever wondered why store brought and frozen fish have a pungent fishy odour?

IMG_3934_2Water in the ocean is about 3% salt by weight. The amount of dissolved mineral including sodium chloride in the fish cells is less than 1%. In order to balance the saltiness in the seawater, ocean creatures fills their cells with amino acids and amines. There are 20 amino acids that make up proteins. The shellfish are filled with amino acid glycine, which is sweet and glutamic acid in the form monosodium glutamate, which is savory and filling. Whereas, the fish has some amino acid but it is mostly dominated with trimethylamine oxide. Now, when fish gets killed the bacteria and enzyme in the fish triggers an oxidation-reduction reaction. This results in trimethylamine and later in to ammonia causing the fish to have strong odour, as it gets older.

IMG_3916_2On other hand have you thought why fish gets cooked in jiffy getting transformed from translucent to opaque, I can’t wait to write on it, but it we shall leave it for next fish post.

Since my childhood I have been a fish lover, especially when it gets cooked in tangy tamarind sauce. I have tweaked this recipe by not completely using the tamarind juice but by substituting half of it with tomato. Keep it as weekend lunch with good warm rice, I bet you will fall in love!

IMG_3957_2Before I get back to you on the science behind cooking time, please make sure not to over cook the fish, there is a fine line between almost done to over cooked. Turnoff the heat a bit in advance as you know your pot, pan and the sauce is still boiling hot! That is good enough to cook your fish just right!

Reference: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen – By Harold McGee


Why does fish has fishy odour – Sea trout in tomato, tamarind sauce / Fish Kolambu

Why does fish has fishy odour –  Sea trout in tomato, tamarind sauce / Fish Kolambu


    For Fish Kolambu
  • Fish (Sea Trout) - 1 kg
  • Oil - 1 tbspn
  • Mustered seed - 1/4 tspn
  • Cumin seed - 1/2 tspn
  • Fenugreek seed - 1/4 tspn
  • Curry Leaves - 2 spring
  • Garlic - 5 to 7 pod (Chopped in thin slices)
  • Green chilli - 1 (Slit)
  • Onion - 100 gram (Finely chopped)
  • Tomato - 300 gram (Finely chopped)
  • Tamarind pulp - 1 1/2 tbspn
  • Turmeric - 1/2 tspn
  • Chilly Powder - 2 tspn (if you need less heat, add Kashmiri chilly powder)
  • Coriander Powder - 1 1/2 tspn
  • Dried fenugreek leaves - 1/4 tspn
  • Salt - To taste
  • Water - 400 ml or according to desired consistency
  • Fresh Chopped Coriander - 1/2 tbspn


    For Fish Kolambu
  • 1. Slit the green chill, chop garlic into thin slices, chop onions and tomato finely.
  • 2. If needed soak your fish in milk to remove the odour.
  • 3. Heat oil in a pot on medium heat
  • 4. Let the oil to warm.
  • 5. When the oil warms up, add fenugreek seeds and mustered let it to splutter, then add cumin, green chilli, curry leaves and garlic. Stir in warm oil for about 30 sec.
  • 6. Then add chopped onions, cook it becomes translucent or light golden brown.
  • 7. Next add tomato cook until soft.
  • 8. At this point add, turmeric powder, chilly powder and coriander powder and fry until you see oil separating out.
  • 9. Add tamarind pulp, salt and pour the water and bring it to boil.
  • 10. When sauce starts to boil drop in fish slowly and bring it to one boil.
  • 11. Just when the sauces starts to boil add freshly chopped coriander and turn off the heat.
  • 12. Check for salt, if needed add more.
  • 13. Let it rest for up to 10 minutes or more.
  • 14. Serve with warm rice

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