Sindhi-style grilled fish

Sindhi-style grilled fish

I Love India
Martin Poole

“Sindhi” refers to a group of people who had to leave their home town of Sindh in Pakistan upon the partition of India. Growing up, many of my Indian friends were Sindhi, so I had many occasions to eat their food. Like all Indians, they love good food but they also love to entertain – and do so very well. Their tables are always laden with more than a handful of dishes, all a little different from other regional food. Yet this koak palla dish is one I have missed and only just learned about recently. The Sindhi people use palla fish, an oily, meaty river fish with thick flesh. I like butterflied whole fish and have tried it with gurnard and sea bream, but also with halibut steaks. I have written the recipe for one fish so you can scale it up for however many you want to cook. Here I have used fillets of fish which are a good option for guests who might feel a little squeamish with whole fish and fish bones.


Quantity Ingredient
1/2 onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
7g finely grated root ginger, (peeled weight)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 teaspoon see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 rounded tablespoon greek yogurt
1 tomato, chopped
small handful coriander, to serve
small indian green finger chilli, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium gurnard, sea bream or other whole fish, butterflied by the fishmonger, or a fish steak, or even a thick fish fillet


  1. If you have a fan-assisted grill function on your oven, turn it on fairly high, around 220°C. Otherwise, preheat the oven and turn on the grill at the same time or – if you can’t do that in your oven – preheat your oven to as high as it will go.
  2. Pulse-blend together the onion, garlic, ginger, spices, yogurt and three-quarters of the tomatoes to a very coarse paste. Stir in the coriander, chilli and remaining tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Season the flesh side of the fish. Once hot, add the fish, flesh side down: it will spit. Cook for 1–2 minutes or until lightly golden. Take off the heat and flip on to a baking sheet or some foil, flesh side up.
  4. Meanwhile, in the same pan, add the blended ingredients and stir-fry over a high heat for 3–5 minutes or until the paste releases oil back into the pan. It should taste harmonious. Adjust the seasoning and heat to your own liking. Top the fish evenly with the paste. Place on the upper shelf of the oven, under the grill if possible, and cook for 6–7 minutes or until the topping is dried and has lightly browned in places. After about 6 minutes, l like to sprinkle with the optional breadcrumbs (see below). Serve hot.

Optional crispy topping

  • I like to tear up some white bread (one-quarter of a slice for 1 fish) into 5mm pieces, add a little olive oil (if you want to be more fancy, you can make a coriander oil by whizzing coriander in it) and toss. Add this to the top of the fish 30–40 seconds before taking the fish out.
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