Mrs Thanaletchmy's ikan bilis curry and home-made dosai with chutney: The recipe

Mrs Thanaletchmy's ikan bilis curry and home-made dosai with chutney: The recipe

How to cook a feast for a large family on a budget, using recipes that one family followed in the olden days.

The late Mrs Thanaletchmy used to feed her 8 children with this curry for less than a dollar back in the 1960s. Watch how her daughters make it today.  READ MORE of her story. The second of CNA Insider's Vanishing Home Recipes series. 

From the kitchen of: Mrs G Leela, age 63, based on a recipe by her late mother, Mrs V Thanaletchmy.

Read her story here.

This recipe feeds 8 people.

For the ikan bilis curry (or karuvadu curry in Tamil):


3 tbsp oil

½ tsp fenugreek

½ tsp mustard seed

1 stalk curry leaves

Two handfuls ikan bilis

2 green chili

5-6 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 medium onion, diced 


½ radish, cubed

2 green brinjals, cubed

3-4 stalks long beans, finger length

1 indian drumstick, finger length

1 potato 

1 green chili 

Ikan Bilis Curry 10: Curry Veggies
The vegetables that go into the curry.


2-3 tbsp Curry powder

Tamarind water from 2 tbsp of tamarind

½ cup mochai beans


1 fillet salted ikan kurau

1 stalk curry leaves

1 tomato, cubed

Salt to taste


1. Heat the oil in a big wok.

Throw in the other ingredients from part A. Fry until fragrant.

2. Add all the vegetables from part B to the wok. Fry for a few minutes.

“Whatever vegetables you want, you add. But brinjal, onions, garlic and potato is a must,” said Mrs Leela.

 3. Add curry powder, followed by tamarind water.

Throw in mochai beans, cover and let it boil for a few minutes.

“It’s up to you how much curry power you want; I put 3 tablespoons. Then you put as much water as per how much gravy you want."

Ikan Bilis Curry 16: Hearty curry made of mostly vegetables
This hearty curry is made mostly of cheap ingredients - ikan bilis, vegetables and eggs. 

 4. Add the ingredients from part D.

“The dried fish will be very salty, so you just salt to taste."

5. Bring to a boil again. 

“Once the potatoes cook, stop the fire. Because the potato is the one that takes the longest to cook."

6. Serve with basmati rice or dosai. 


For the dosai:

1 cup dal

½ tsp fenugreek

2 cups rice flour

Salt to taste 

Ikan Bilis Curry 11: Dosai
Mrs Leela makes her dosai from scratch. “It’s fresher and more chewy than the premix version,” she says.


1. Soak the dal and fenugreek in water for 3-4 hours.

2. Put the soaked dal and fenugreek in a blender. Using the same water, blend it to a smooth paste.

 3. Add 2 cups of rice flour, blend again. 

 4. Keep the mixture covered overnight at room temperature.

“You need to let the mixture ferment and rise.”

 5. The next morning, grease a flat non-stick pan with oil or butter. Mrs Leela uses gingelly oil.

Spread out one scoop of the dosai mixture evenly with a ladle.

Ikan Bilis Curry 12: Leela flipping dosai
Mrs Leela uses a circular nonstick pan for her dosai.

 6. Flip once after a few minutes

“If you don’t want to flip it, then just cover it up”

7. Serve hot, with chutney. 

“Children eat this with peanut butter, nutella, or jam. It’s like a pancake - you can eat it with anything."


For the chutney:

4 medium onions, diced

4 medium Tomato, cubed

6-7 dried chilis, seeds in

1 bunch coriander

2 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

Ikan Bilis Curry 13: Chutney in bowl


1. Heat the oil in a wok.

Fry the dried chili until it tickles your  nose

2. Add the onions, brown it.

Add tomato.

 3. Once the skin starts to peel off, add salt.

Take off the stove, let it cool down.

Ikan Bilis Curry 14: Chutney out of wok

 4. Once cool, put all the ingredients and coriander into a blender. Salt again if necessary.

 5. Serve with dosai.

“There are many kinds of chutney. You can put mint, coconut, any way you like it." 

Ikan Bilis Curry 15: The siblings and their dishes
The siblings and their mother's dishes.

Source: CNA/yv