Fish Maheqalya

Hyderabad does not boast of many seafood preparations. However come rainy season or the winter, we hyderabadis love to prepare a few very special close to heart dishes that are very specific to the Hyderabadi trpe of cooking. Today I am writing about one such fish curry. One of my most favorite fish curries, Machli ka Maheqalya, never fails to remind me of my grandmother. She used to prepare the most delicious Maheqalya ever.

Red Snapper Steaks

I usually prepare a mutton maheqalya or a fish maheqalya. Maheqalya is basically a sauce made with a range or aromatic spices and seasonings. It is a regional recipe from the city of Hyderabad usually prepared by Muslims. If you do not like fish or mutton, you can add add boiled eggs to the sauce to make it ando ka maheqalya, or you can also add sautéed bitter gourd rounds into the gravy for karelon ka maheqalya, or just opo squash pieces for kaddu ka maheqalia.

A perfect accompaniment to Maheqalya is Khadi dal and rice. My Ammi used to prepare and serve this for lunch or dinner usually on Jummah during my childhood.

Machli ka Maheqalya ~ Fish Maheqalya


White/Yellow Onion – 2, large, sliced thick
Groundnut/Moomphalli – 3 tbsp, ground into a fine powder
Dry Desiccated Coconut – 3 tbsp
White poppy seeds/Khuskhus – 1 tbsp
Sesame seeds/Till – 3 tbsp
Tomatoes – 3, large, red and ripe, roughly chopped
Canola oil – 4 tbsp
Curry leaves – 1 or 2 fresh sprigs
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4 tsp
Dried red chillies/Baghaar ki mirch – 3, each broken into two
Dry Roasted Coriander seed powder – 1 tsp
Ginger-Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Red Snapper steaks – 5-6 steaks (I had a medium sized red snapper cut into steaks) (preferred fish are rohu and murrel which are easily available in India, or you can also use salmon (wild) or king fish or any that you like with or without bones)
Cilantro/Kothmir – 1 tbsp, chopped finely

Machli ka Maheqalya ~ Fish Maheqalya


1. Take a large heavy bottom non-stick skillet on medium heat, and pour a tablespoon of oil into it. As it gets warm, add the sliced onions and a teaspoon of salt. Mix well and half cover with the lid. After 2-3 minutes, give a good stir to the onions, add 1/4 cup of water, and again half cover it with lid. Keep repeating this until the onions are all soft and browned evenly. Remove the pan from heat, and let them cool down. Once cooled, add the chopped tomatoes and the caramelized onions into a blender container or food processor and blend till pureed smooth adding a few drops of water if necessary, just to aid in the process. Keep aside.
2. Put a small non-stick frying pan on medium heat and dry-roast the groundnuts, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, shredded coconut, khuskhus each individually without oil till they are golden brown in colour. Do not burn them. Remove them into a cup (you can dry roast a handful of almonds and cashewnuts and grind them together along if you want a richer gravy). Once cool, grind them all together or individually until very fine. Make sure the obtained spice powder is very fine.
3. Take a large non-stick heavy bottomed saucepan and add a tablespoon of oil to it and put it on medium heat, add oil and keep it on medium high heat. Add cumin seeds, dried red chillies, curry leaves and fenugreek seeds to the oil and let them splutter. Now add the onion+tomato paste to it and cover the lid immediately for 3-5 minutes and remove the saucepan from heat, so that the aroma of the tempered oil with spices gets absorbed by the onion mixture. Remove the lid, put the saucepan back on stove and add the ginger-garlic pastes to it and stir to mix it all completely. Add the spice powder which we prepared earlier, the red chilli powder, salt and turmeric and stir it well. Lower the heat to medium low and let cook until it starts leaving oil. Pour in about 3 cups of water, and add the tamarind paste and give it a stir. Close the lid and increase the heat and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and gently lower the fish steaks into the gravy. Let it cook half covered for 15 minutes until the fish is done. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve warm.


21 thoughts on “Fish Maheqalya

  1. monaji,
    thanks for sharing these wonderful recipes. i would like to share with you some of mine too. how do i do it? another thing is please try & get the recipe for telugu chicken, prawn or mutton pickle. they really used to make it wonderful. let me know where to upload the recipes please. i am a foodie like you. thanks

    Arun, you can email me the recipes at ~Mona

  2. I can imagine how good it tastes just looking at the ingredients you have used..can’t wait to try it… I have a query Can I use fresh coconut instead of the dessicated ones..

    Radhika, you can use fresh grated coconut, but I have always only used dessicated coconut, or powdered coconut cream, or coconut milk in my cooking. ~Mona

  3. Hi Mona,
    The dish is very familiar to me and we usually call it as fish masala in hyderabad.sometimes we use the same ingredients for the mutton also.Good Luck.
    Bye Mona.

  4. assk mona
    very nice moms usually makes fish curry like ur recipe. and my mother in law makes fish khatta saalan or fish meetha saalan . i like all 3 recipes, my fav fried fish.
    i miss live freshwater marel fish we use to get in hyd.
    i always prefer live fish, and we get live catfish at ur place.
    i need to know if u want to cut fish big round pieces into half, how do i do it. like in ur pict . i try with knife but it gets messy.

    i prefer eating this curry next day bcos all flavors get mixed well.

    Rizruby, I usually ask the butcher to cut the fish into steaks or fillets. ~Mona

  5. Totally a new recipe to me. I have lived in Hyderabad for most pat of my life but never tasted them, probably they do not serve them at restaurants. In our parts fish curry is usually tamarind based.

  6. Dear Mona,
    What luck! You’ve just posted another fish recipe! And this fish is available here….I had a question….Usually, Hyderabadi calls for the grinding of tiny seeds, like sesame, and coriander, etc, etc…What king of grinder best achieves this? I’ve heard of some people using coffee grinders…does that work?Here, in Japan, we have some sesame seed grinders too…
    Since most of us are away from India, and lack the luxury of a stone grinder, if you can inform, I’ll be highly obliged.
    best wishes for a great year…

    Amarnath, I have heard some of my friends use coffee/spice grinders to achieve a fine powder of the spices. But I have used ‘Magic Bullet’ for this purpose since I came to Canada and I am always satisfied with the results. ~Mona

  7. scrumptious recipe! It looks and I think it tastes like fish pulusu, tamarind based gravy, we don’t add peanuts and poppy seeds to pulusu though. I tasted mehekhalya when I attend a cooking class in hyderabad…

  8. This looks and sounds so delicious, Mona! I am always looking for fish recipes and, since I love Hyderabadi cuisine very much, I will try this soon- along with khadi masoor ki dal aur chaval- looks like a great combo!

    I would like to ask a question though: what are the differences between the words “mahekhalya” and “salan”? Maybe “salan” is the general word for “gravy/sauce”, and mahekhalya is a special formula? Forgive my asking, but I am very curious about such things.

    Pelicano, you can call Mahekhalya and Qorma are types of curries. In Mahekhalya, the gravy is made with masalas and tamarind, with no use of yogurt; whereas in the gravy of Qorma, masalas and yogurt is used. So because of these differences it is named differently. ~Mona

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