Fish Rava Fry

By Published On: 21 Nov '21Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

A restaurant delicacy, this Fish Rava Fry is an excellent crispy and moist Mangalorean classic. It pairs perfectly with Coconut Dhal and hot steamed rice.

Fish Rava Fry

What is fish rava fry?

Fish Rawa Fry is a method of frying marinated fish with a coating of rawa also known as semolina, in an iron griddle or skillet (tawa in Hindi) with a little oil until the crust is crispy.

This marinade is called as 'Meet Mirsang' in Konkani. 'Meet' means salt and 'mirsang' means chilli. Every Mangalorean household has its own version of meet mirsang. This marinade is usually prepared on spot as required or in many circumstances prepared in advance and stored in a little earthern ceramic jar known as buyaon (pronounced bu-yaa-vu) for use as required. The Goans have their own version called 'Reichado'. The Mangalorean Bunts call the same marinade as 'puli munchi' (prounced puli-moonchi).

I have fond memories of helping my mother grind this masala in a traditional grinding stone as a child. It was chaos in the kitchen each time we bought fish. I loved cleaning fish so, I would opt to clean the fish. My sister was good at using the grinding stone, so, she would help grind the masala. My mother would take cake of the meet mirsang. She would simply add the required whole ingredients such as dried red chillies, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt and vinegar to the grinding stone and my sister would blend the ingredients to a smooth paste. No water was to be added and this marinade was used immediately. We had a couple of cats and a couple of dogs,whose joy had no bounds as they would get to eat the fish heads and tails while I was cutting the fish!! You can imagine the meows, the moans, the sighs, the whines and the growls at the sheer joy of eating fish heads and without a doubt all our neighbours knew we had fish on the menu that night!!!

The recipe below is for instant meet mirsang, which means you use this marinade soon after preparing it. You may store it in the refrigerator and use it within 3 to 5 days.

WHAT IS A TAWA?

Tawa is a thick heavy cast iron griddle, also known as skillet, traditionally used for frying fish, meat and vegetables in India as in the days gone by not many cooking appliances were available and non-stick was not heard of. A tawa is round in shape but slightly concave in the centre. A tawa can also be inverted and used to make delicious breads such as flatbreads and chapathies. These days they come with a wooden or iron handle. Further, the tawas of today come non-stick with a coating of Teflon on the inner surface. Most tawas are replaced by the non-stick frying pans in the modern kitchens.

In addition to the non-stick tawa, I also have a seasoned tawa which is an heirloom and is specially gifted to me by my mother when I left India. It is seasoned or cured and can be used for a very long time although now I use it only for making chapathies.

The most traditional way of using this tawa (griddle) is to heat it on a mud chulah (earthern/clay stove) or ranhi (in Konkani pronounced raa-nhi). These chulahs are made with a combination of clay, husk and water. The food was cooked in earthen pots and these pots naturally add smoky flavour to the dishes. These chulahs can be within a kitchen of a home or as some people prefer, to install under a shady tree in an open courtyard or in another room. We had 2 chulahs in the kitchen as most of our food was cooked with firewood from our own garden. The chulahs in my house were a slightly modern version made with bricks and covered with concrete and painted with a black shiny finish. It is one of the best ways of cooking food, as the food cooked over coals would add a different dimension to curries, breads and other food particularly fish and pork curries cooked in earthen pots (kundle) as many of you who have tasted fish and pork would agree with me. There are villages in India where people still prefer to eat food made on mud chulahs as it is more flavoursome. While firewood is used as a fuel, many who own cattle will also use cowdung cakes as fuel, as it is an organic and natural resource.

With the change of time and our fast moving lives, these chulahs have been replaced by gas stoves, microwave ovens, ovens and one touch cooking ranges.

Image of a Tawa heated over a chulah

Image of a Chulah (mud stove)

Chapathi frying over a Chulah

Once the tawa is heated, oil is added, and the marinated fish is fried on both sides till cooked and crispy. With the breads, the tawa is heated to a certain temperature before the bread is added and cooked until done on both sides. The breads can be cooked with or without the use of oil. Adding oil is a matter of preference.

Tawa is a cooking appliance that was used widely by my mother, grandmother and great grandmother in the early 1900s and until the non-stick frying pans came into existence in the 1960s and the 1970s. It is still the appliance used in many homes except, the modern ones are not concave, come with a handle and most are non-stick. You can also buy tawas without the non-stick coating as many still prefer to use them without the coating for health reasons.

what is rava?

Rawa/Rava, Sooji and Semolina are different names for the same gritty and coarse powder/flour that is obtained from wheat. There is no concrete difference between the three, the only difference being in their usage. Semolina is Italian in origin, sooji is the word used for it in North India and Pakistan. In South India Semolina is called as rava/rawa. It is a wheat flour that is made from what is left behind when the finer flour has been separated. Dhurum Wheat is used to make this semolina because it is harder than the normal wheat. In Italy, it is sometimes used to make pastas.

In India, semolina is used for making a variety of sweets and also used as a coating to fry fish and vegetables. There are two popular ways of frying fish:

1. Marinate the fish in spices and fry in hot oil until just cooked.

2. Apply a coating of semolina to the marinated fish and fry in hot oil until the coating is crisp.

This recipe involves the use of semolina to coat the fish before frying it in hot oil.

why skin the fish?

Flounder is sold as a whole fish and although the skin is edible, it is normally skinned on both sides before cooking because the skin tends to shrink and curl up during cooking. There are different ways of skinning the fish but the most commonly used method in my home is to make a small incision in the head and pull the skin gently. If the skin tends to rip, do another incision, and again gently pull the skin. Here are some steps to follow:-

  • Place your fish on a cutting board with the head facing away from you.
  • Make an incision just above its head down to the bone but do not cut through the bone. Using your thumb and index finger start to lift the skin till you can grip it, then peel the skin gently right till where the tail is, so it does not rip. It is a little tricky but doable.
  • Peel as much skin as possible. When finished on one side, flip the fish and skin the other side in a similar fashion.

Skinning the fish on one side (the side with black skin)

Skinning the fish on the other side (the side with white skin)

Fish skinned on both sides

why coat the fish with rava/semolina?

Coating the fish with semolina adds flavour and helps to seal the juices of the fish when it is cooking. It enhances the delicate texture of the fish by creating a crispy golden outer crust, which is a favourite of many Indian people. Rava fried fish is a popular item on almost all Indian restaurant menus in India and is served alongside dhal or rasam and rice. It is an extremely satisfying meal combo and I have tried to recreate this meal at home for my family.

If you do not want to coat the fish with semolina, then you can fry the fish without the semolina coating. In this case, you will first marinate the fish (Step 4). Skip Step 6 and proceed to Step 7. The fish is still delicious even without using this coating.

You can use a variety of whole fishes with bone for this recipe such as pomfret, flounder, sand whiting, barramundi, bream or king fish. Further, you can buy the whole fish and cut into slices and fry the fish. You can also use fillets if you prefer fillets instead of the whole fish. Reduce the cooking time for the fillets as fillets cook quicker than fish with bone.

Cleaned, deskinned and scored fish ready to be marinated

Marinated Fish with shallow cuts as per ingredients below (meet mirsang)

Fish with shallow cuts coated with semolina

This fish fry reminds me of home. I hope you enjoy making this fish fry with rava and I also hope you enjoy eating it as much as my family does!

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Fish Rava Fry

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
This Fish Rava Fry recipe is an excellent Mangalorean classic, where the whole flounder is marinated with a handful of cupboard spices. Frying it with a coat of semolina helps the crust stay crisp, while the fish stays moist. It pairs perfectly with Coconut Dhal and hot steamed rice. This hearty and satisfying fish fry is my son's most favourite and worthy of a second helping!!.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Marinating time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 14 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Mangalorean
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 750 g whole flounder pomfret or any firm fish
  • 2 heaped tsp. Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 heaped tsp. cumin powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp. salt or to taste
  • ¼ cup or 4 tbsp. white vinegar or as required to make a thick paste
  • ½ cup semolina for the crust
  • Oil for shallow frying

Instructions
 

  • Using your scissors cut the pectoral, anal and dorsal fins of the flounder. Cut through the belly and clean the belly well. Remove any dark film in the belly and give the belly a good wash. Now wash fish well under cold running water. Drain the fish and remove skin on both sides. If you are unsure, your Asian fish monger might be able to skin the fish for you. You may leave the fish whole or cut it into two or three pieces.
  • If you are leaving the fish whole, then place the fish on a dry cutting board. Using a very sharp knife make 4 shallow cuts (score) on the surface of the fish spaced approximately 3cm apart. Scoring helps the marinade to penetrate through the fish and helps the fish cook more evenly.
  • Make a paste with chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt and vinegar. Only add just enough vinegar to make a paste as we do not want the paste to be runny.
  • Apply this paste evenly over the fishes (if you are not cutting the fishes) or fish pieces and, also inside the belly. Wash your hands immediately with detergent to remove any residue from the chilli paste.
  • Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes minimum or one hour at room temperature. In very hot conditions, refrigerate the fish until ready to fry.
  • When ready to fry the fish, remove it from the refrigerator. Sprinkle semolina on to a dinner plate or a platter and spread it around the plate evenly. Place one fish on the top of semolina and coat this side with semolina. Flip and coat evenly on the other side. If you have cut the fish into pieces, then coat both sides of the pieces with semolina. Dust off any excess before you drop the fish/fish pieces into the oil (SEE NOTE 1)
  • Heat a heavy based non-stick frypan with oil to a near smoking point on medium. You should have about 1½ cm of oil in the pan to shallow fry the fish. Fry the fish for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. If there is more than one fish, then fry in batches so the pan is not over-crowded. On the other hand, if you have cut your fish into pieces, then cook on each side for two minutes or until golden brown and the fish is cooked through. To check if the fish is cooked, insert a fork gently at an angle, at the thickest point and twist gently. The fish will flake easily when it is done and will lose its translucent or raw appearance.
  • Serve immediately with steamed rice, Coconut Dhal and your choice of vegetables or papads. Jump to Coconut Dhal Recipe

Notes

  1. If you are using semolina, it is best to reduce the fire to medium-low once you add the fish to the frying pan, to avoid semolina from scorching.
  2. If you are fying the fish without semolina, then omit Step 6. Add the fish in Step 7 to the pan with hot oil and cook for 2 minutes or each side or until golden brown. If you have cut your fish into pieces, fry them for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and fish is just cooked. Do not overcook the fish. The time for frying fish depends on the thickness of the fish. Watch carefully once you add fish to the pan.
Keyword Crispy Fried Fish, Fish, Fish Fry, Fish Tawa Fry, Fried fish, Indian Fried Fish, Mangalorean Fish Fry, Rava Fish, Rawa Fish Fry
Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

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