Kothmiratil Macchi – Cilantro and Turmeric Fried Whitebait

By Mieke

The first book I got in the awesome Phaidon range of national classics was India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant. I thought I’d try and get to know the Indian kitchen better. But it’s so vast and diverse, and the book offers so many recipes that I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to begin.

Except for this one recipe.

Kothmiratil macchi

It’s called kothmiratil macchi, a coastal dish that’s prepared with herring or whitebait in the book. I’ve had a love affair with small fried fish ever since my first trip to Spain at 19. So I just had to make this. I’ve since made it over and over again.

Whitebait versus anchovies

It’s hard to find whitebait here (and since it’s baby fish it’s not very sustainable) so I generally use fresh anchovies for this. Please do check with your fish monger how they’ve been caught, because this will affect how sustainable they are.

Because they’re slightly too big to get a good crisp on the heads and innards before the cilantro and other spices turn bitter I prefer cleaning them myself. The more you get the more work this is, but in my opinion the fiddle is totally worth the hassle.

What do you have with Indian coriander fried fish?

These are so good I tend to have them with just some plain rice and slices of cucumber and nothing else.

Sometimes I’ll get a little disrespectful and have them with tzatziki. The freshness meshes really well with the fried fish. To make it less disrespectful I reckon a cucumber raita would also work and be more appropriate.

Kothmiratil Macchi - Indian coriander fried fish

Dorothy Porker
These salty, earthy, umami-loaded fried anchovies are the tiny flavor bombs you deserve after the work you've put in to make them.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main course, Party snack, Side dish, Snack
Cuisine Indian
Servings 2


  • Sharp knife
  • Food processor
  • Large skillet or frying pan
  • Paper towels


  • 15 oz - 500 gr whitebait or anchovies
  • 1 t - 5 gr ground turmeric
  • 1 t - 5 ml lime juice
  • 1 t - 5 gr sugar
  • 1 t - 5 ml water
  • big bunch coriander coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 green bird's eye chilies seeds and white pith removed
  • 1" - 2 cm piece of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
  • 5 oz - 150 gr rice flour
  • sunflower oil for shallow frying
  • salt
  • 2 limes cut into wedges


  • Clean the fish. You can do this by gently twisting the head right behind the gills and then pulling gently up and back, before pushing the innards out with your thumb and gently pulling out the spine, as shown in the video below.
  • Once the fish is cleaned, use a sharp knife to score the fish ever so gently on both sides.
  • Mix together 1 t - 5 gr of turmeric, 1 t - 5 gr of sugar, 1 t - 5 gr of lime juice and 1 t - 5 gr of water to make a paste. Gently rub the paste into the fish and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Note: if you exceed this time the lime will cook the fish.
  • In the meantime, make a spice paste by mixing together a bunch of coriander, 4 green bird's eye chilies, 1" - 2 cm's of peeled ginger and 4 garlic cloves in a food processor. You can add a few tablespoons of water to get it to smooth out a little further.
  • Spread the coriander-paste evenly over the fish and let sit for another 15 minutes.
  • Preheat your oil for shallow-frying in a large skillet or frying pan.
  • Gently coat the fish in rice flour and fry in batches until crisp. Depending on the size of your fish this should take 5-10 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels and finish off with a nice helping of salt. Serve with lime wedges for added oomph.


Once fried this fish will keep for 1 day in the fridge and can be reheated in a hot oven at roughly 350° F/ 175° C in 10-15 minutes.
Keyword anchovies, cookbook recipe, fish, indian recipe, pushpesh pant, seafood, white bait

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