January 24, 2012

Spice Crusted, Pan-fried, Sole — Manthal Fry

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We have seen a total dip in the temperature in the last few days here in Qatar and the other GCC states as well. Cold weathers like this stir an urge to spend as much time near the warmth of the oven, concocting plenty of delightfully spicy noshes and nibbles to lift the spirit and keep the body warm. But compared to last January, when I published like 21 recipes, it looks like I’ve been on kitchen hibernation this year—just two recipes to credit so far. It seems like forever since I posted a savory recipe too. So today, I decided to come out of the rut and put a stop to all that.

With cold weather, the thing is, I’m always craving something hot and spicy. The kind of dish that will make my insides warm. Like this impressive sole dish. 

It’s amazingly warming, deeply satisfying, and tastes heavenly too—perfect for winter. Hmm, did I tell you that I have a particular weakness for pan-fried dishes? Yes, I do. And this one has all the necessary qualities I prefer—use of Indian spices for a beautiful balance of tart and spiciness, with plenty of south Indian ingredient, curry leaves, thrown in for good measure, and a deliciously flavorful char on the crust. This makes an incredibly fast yet special weekday meal and has all the factors for elegant entertaining too.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times before how much fish or seafood are an important part of our daily meals. It is usually served and devoured at lunch time and reaches our dining table in the form of a simple or creamy curry, roast or pan-fried dish, or grilled awesomeness. Accompanying dishes like fluffy plates of steamed rice, comforting dal and nutritious vegetable sides are planned around this main dish. In brief, our lunchtime meals are thoroughly desi style. After all it is not easy to forget your roots or the flavors and aromas you grew up with!

I spent a good part of my early childhood at my mom’s place in Kochi, a port city in Kerala. My late grandfather owned fishing boats and we were fortunate to have ample supplies of the daily catch for our personal use. Though this was the case, the prospect of preparing seafood was never alluring to me, not even in my university days. Quite frankly, the fishy stench put me off the very thought of going anywhere near raw fish. Well, all that changed once I walked down the aisle. My husband loved all things fish. Period.

Fish is an excellent source of protein and this toothsome fry is made with the delectable flatfish, sole, known as manthal in Malayalam. The flaky texture and delicate flavor of sole is perked up with a spicy, zingy rub and then pan-fried with a liberal seasoning of chili flakes and curry leaves—a wonderful treat.

As well as sole, the rub can be used on any kind of fish you have. To make life easier, it can be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a long time. I usually triple the recipe and store the marinade in the fridge to use as necessary. Ideally, small deep slashes are made across the fish fillet on both sides to insert spice flavorings into the meat before frying. However, I skipped this technique as the sole was very thin, and not robust. Now, instead of pan-frying, you can grill the fish in the oven at 2000C for an equally delicious result. Baking time will depend on the size of the fish.

Serve it dish as an appetizer, a light meal with a salad, or as a side with steamed rice.
Spice Crusted, Pan-fried, Sole — Manthal Fry

Serves 3
Prep:15 min, cooking: 15 min

750g whole small sole fish, skinned, scaled, heads removed, gutted and trimmed
lemon wedges, to serve

For marinade
4 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon black pepper powder
1 teaspoon dry chili flakes
1 tablespoon oil
4 tablespoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
1 green chili, sliced
4 small shallots
1 sprig curry leaf
salt, to taste
water, a splash, if needed

For frying
3 handful of curry leaves
2 teaspoon chili flakes
oil for shallow frying (use coconut oil for authentic taste)

Rinse the fish with lemon juice and water to rid of any raw smell; pat dry with kitchen paper. Sole can vary in size, so cut the larger ones into half, if you wish, or leave it as is.

Grind all marinade ingredients together in an electric spice or coffee grinder adding a splash of water, if necessary, to get a smooth paste. Season.

Roll fish in the marinade masala to coat liberally. Set aside for 10-30 min at room temperature. Store any remaining marinade, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer for a couple of months.

Heat little oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the curry leaves and then sprinkle 1 teaspoon chili flakes over the top. Place fish pieces over this and fry for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown underneath.

Before turning over, sprinkle over the remaining chili flakes and curry leaves on top, then turn over carefully without breaking the flesh, and repeat the process until the fish is just cooked through. Please note that the timing will depend on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the pan, so adjust accordingly. The fish is cooked when it flakes easily with a fork. You don’t want to overcook, as the meat tends to dry easily. If you are cooking in batches, adjust seasoning with chili flakes and curry leaves accordingly.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. The delicate flesh tends to break apart easily when cooked so be careful while handling. Serve with lemon wedges, alongside chickpeas salad, or hot steamed rice, if you like.

So until next week, enjoy!


  1. I love this spicy and wholesome plate of meal, very delicious.

  2. Cant take the eyes from ur clicks.............u have explained it so elaborately.....superb manthal fry dear...

    Its really, very very cold weather here too in Abu Dhabi...Dont feel like coming out of the blanket....

  3. hmmmm..Seems perfect! Nashi you are awesome..its always cool to see your yummy cooking images! Love it..MashaAllah,,Keep it up :)
    Enjoy in your Kitchen *(*

  4. Appetizing platter....love the variations in one plate...yum recipe...

  5. adipoli dear......kothi vannu

  6. Excellent clicks. Looks so crispy and yum

  7. I am going to note down/bookmark this one!:-) Has been a little while since I visited your blog,so going through the recipes today,hehe.
    Thank you for sharing!

  8. yummy spicy fish........pics tooo gud......

  9. Love the look of that fried fish, nice and spicy....Would be wonderful with rice and curd...

    And btw, how did you get that raw fish to look so pretty ?? ;)

  10. Mmmmm ... sounds wonderful! Your pics are always so gorgeous :)

  11. Beautiful clicks !! delicious one !!

    Ongoing Event - CC-Chocolate Fest

  12. Manthal fry super ketto....spicy yummy...Awesome clicks...

  13. Nice recipe..bookmarked


  14. I am hungry :P.... this looks soo inviting....

  15. Seriously cant take my eyes from ur irresistible click,super tempting pan fried fish..

  16. Its been bitterly cold here in Bahrain too and this spicy concoction looks just the right thing to have. Alas, I cannot expect the marinade to work on my poor veggies ( I don't eat meat. Again). The photos are lovely and I am amazed you have such light during this season as well. We have such dull days here and photographing has become really difficult.

    Good to see you back in action.

  17. Fish fry looks spicy and yummy.I am sure it tastes awesome with our boiled rice.

  18. This makes me hungry and just ate!

  19. I love this fish dish, the ingredients are appealing.
    The pictures are absolutely wonderful with the pepper grinder, the serving dish et al.
    A lovely spicy entree, I can't wait to prepare this.

  20. Gorgeous clicks and wonderful dish!

  21. Cold weather makes me also crave for spicy food! My next post is one super hot, fiery spicy dish :)
    Lovely photos as always!

  22. looks fabulous and totally yummy fry..

  23. Nashi, I have never seen a squished lime look so pretty.. really!
    The fish looks tasty and i don't think i have ever said a dish 'looks' 'tasty' before. I have said it all, haven't i? :-)

  24. yep, cold does bring out the lazies in me too... dont feel like doing anything, let alone cooking! beautiful pics :)

  25. beautiful pictures and great recipe..
    Love sea food specially in winters

  26. nash your photos r stunning as always. =)
    I enjoy sole fish a lots, but I hadnt heard if its available here around. I gotta try your marination out, its coming close to the one I use for maackrels and my husband loves it spicy anyway. He cant stand fishy smell ( I dont know what he means). Your family had fishing boats? Thats so cool! You get to taste only the best stuff and many different things. Did your late grandfather ever find pearls? always wonder what all fisher man must be catching.
    I can see u serve this dish with chickpeas. what other side dishes would u recommend serving with your sole?

  27. Gorgeous clicks and wonderful dish!

  28. I too enjoyed hot and spicy fish, but has not tried sole this way, looks like a healthy and complete meal in itself. loved your clicks as always

  29. Wow, beautiful! This dish looks really scrumptious. A wonderful way of preparing sole.



  30. Delicious!!!!
    What a wonderful dish.... Yumm...
    I love spicy, crunchy fish with really hot chutney. God trust me I am drooling over this baby.

  31. The husband is not a huge fan if fish but these type of spicy fried fish is his fav type and i can't wait to try it! Looks delicious.

  32. thats a very tempting shot!...now only if I had that for dinner! :)

  33. Un plato exquisito me encanta como luce tostado es una tentación,abrazos husg,hugs.

  34. I am so happy to have discovered your blog, you have some wonderful recipes and photographs!

  35. YUMMY!!! I have to admit drooling just looking at those beautiful photos -- i am a huge fan of fish!!!

  36. perfect with rice and my fav manga chamanthi...kothi avunnuuu...amazing clicks dear...

  37. I just love your pics nashi.. Awesome.. :) Love this one..

  38. LOve all the pictures very beautiful.

  39. Nash, your pics are sooooo tempting...and manthai looks soo yummy.....perfect with hot steaming rice and puliserri...sharikum kothivarunnu...

  40. Yummy Maanthal fry , gimme some nash :).

  41. I haven't tried this before! Looks great!

  42. Beautifully photographed! Can't wait to try this recipe!

  43. Nashi, You know what you did?You poisoned my mind....with pinterest!I have been trying to register by asking to join and they dint respond so far....Your pinned ones are soo good, spend more than hour yday looking at those pics. When someone say something is addictive, i tactfully stay away, as I know how I get hooked to these stuffs!

    Your chicken roast looks delish. It sure is going to be too spicy for me as well. As I normally add 3-4 teaspoons of chilli powder for a kilo of chicken then add paprika for colour....My spice level has gone way below my earlier tolerance level after living in UK for so long.



A million thank you's for stopping by, taking the time to connect, and coming back to visit again. I genuinely appreciate each of your kind thoughts, lovely words, love and support. Happy, happy to hear from you, and hope to see you again!

♥ Nashi