Pan fried Shark fillets – Varutha Sura

Let me tell you at the outset that I am no great seafood expert. I am a relative newbie who has grown to appreciate and slowly enjoy seafood through a combination of peer pressure, joint family dynamics and my daughter’s seafood love. Actually I don’t really have much choice. I am married into it. I am now eagerly learning up everything about cooking seafood. The most important and also the most time-consuming part of cooking seafood is cleaning it. However this recipe requires little or no cleaning whatsoever which makes it an ideal recipe for beginners.

Now these sharks (Sura) are not the type of huge ones you saw in “Jaws”. The ones commonly available in the market are the much smaller ones. They’re sharks alright, but just smaller. We bought these at the lighthouse fish market (near Marina beach – more on this fish market in another post). There is another famous fish market at Lloyds road. In all these markets, there’ll be women (men at Lloyds road market) who’ll skin and fillet the fish for you for an extra fee. Shark is usually made into puttu, so you’ll have to specifically tell them that you want these as fillets for frying.
I am really amazed at myself at how much I’ve changed. The very first time that I cooked chicken (this was before being married), I had to clean it but I wouldn’t touch the chicken, I used a spatula to push it around in a bowl of water. Last weekend, I sat and scaled thirukai meen (sting ray fishes).

Shark fillets (sura) are extremely soft and fragile, so handle gently, especially while frying. These pan fried shark fillets are delicately flaky on the inside and crisp on the outside and are best had hot as a starter or as a side with rice. The pan fried Sura doesn’t smell as overpowering as the Sura puttu and is also a nice variation. Also Shark (sura) is great for nursing mothers like I mentioned in my earlier post. It really improves your supply. Try it.  

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins
Serves: 6


Shark/Sura – 1 whole shark skinned and filleted (about 1 inch wide fillets)
Red chilli powder – 2-3 tbsp (adjust)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Tamarind extract – 1/4 cup
Black Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil as required


1.      Rinse fillets in 2-3 changes of water. Gently squeeze out excess water, pat dry and set aside.

2.      In a bowl, combine the red chilli powder, turmeric powder, tamarind extract, black pepper powder and salt and mix well. The mixture should be a not too thick, slightly runny marinade.

3.      Dip the fillets one at a time in the marinade to coat evenly. You can now store the marinated fillets in a plastic box for 1-2 days refrigerated or up to 3-4 days in the freezer.

4.      Heat a tawa/shallow pan and when hot add 2 tbsp oil and place 3-4 marinated fillets on the tawa without crowding. You should hear a loud sizzling sound when you place the fillets on the tawa. Let cook for 1-2 minutes, then gently flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes. When the fish is cooked through it will lift up easily, so wait till that point to flip over.

5.      Serve hot as a starter or as a side with rice and Meen kozhambu (spicy fish gravy).

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