Mackerel in Thai Red Curry Sauce (Choo Chee)

My friend Melvin is great with Asian food. The other day he prepared this mackerel in Thai red curry sauce for us, and it was so good that I wanted to make it myself as soon as possible. Melvin got to know this dish in Thailand, and got the recipe from Hot Thai Kitchen. He improved the technique for cooking the mackerel however: rather than pan frying both sides, just pan fry the skin until crispy and then finish cooking the flesh side in the residual heat of the sauce. That way, the mackerel stays more moist. In Thailand this dish is called Choo Chee and it can be prepared with any kind of seafood. I’d say however that mackerel is a very good choice as the flavor of the mackerel can stand up to the curry sauce. The dish benefits from homemade Thai red curry paste, but you could also use store-bought curry paste.


For 2 servings

2 mackerel fillets with skin, about 300 grams (.66 lb)

3 Tbsp Thai red curry paste

250 ml (1 cup) coconut milk

1 tsp palm sugar

1 tsp fish sauce, or to taste

3 kaffir lime leaves, in fine julienne

1 tsp red chilli pepper, in fine julienne

vegetable oil for frying

white rice, to serve


Remove the bones from the mackerel using tweezers.

Feel with your finger tips to check whether all bones have been removed.

Remove the central rib from the lime leaves.

Slice the lime leaves into thin julienne, the thinner the better.

To make the sauce, combine 60 ml (1/4 cup) of the coconut milk with 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste in a pan that is just wide enough to contain the mackerel fillets in a single layer.

Bring this to a boil, stirring.

Keep stirring…

…until it has become thick and fragrant.

Now add 160 ml (2/3 cup) coconut milk, so you will have 2 tablespoons left for garnish.

Season with a teaspoon of fish sauce and a teaspoon of palm sugar.

Stir and bring to a boil.

Simmer the sauce until it is almost as thick as you like it, then add half of the kaffir lime leaf julienne.

Cook for another minute, then turn off the heat. Taste if any more fish sauce is needed. The sauce should be strongly seasoned, because the fish is unseasoned.

Pan fry the mackerel fillets on the skin side in vegetable oil until the skin is crispy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Put the mackerel with the skin up in the sauce. The residual heat will cook the mackerel in about 5 minutes.

To serve, put the mackerel on preheated plates and spoon the sauce around it to keep the skin crispy. Place only a bit of sauce on top for garnish.

Garnish with the remaining lime leaf julienne, the remaining coconut milk, and the chilli julienne. Serve with white rice.

Wine pairing

This is great with a full-bodied but dry Gewurztraminer from Alto Adige in Northern Italy. It is also great with a Condrieu, which is a Viognier from the Northern Rhone Valley in France. Another dry but creamy and aromatic Viognier or Gewurztraminer would also work.


Rosemary smoked squab with butternut squash is a dish that is worthy of being on a restaurant menu.


7 thoughts on “Mackerel in Thai Red Curry Sauce (Choo Chee)

  1. I’ve made this in a similar way with a sockeye salmon filet (shoo shee pla), but finished it in the oven for a few minutes on broil. We have a potted Kaffir Lime tree so always have fresh leaves to use. One of our favorites but will have to try it with a smaller fish and do it all on the stovetop like your method.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A beautiful classic Thai recipe which I can so see working with mackerel. I very much prefer making all my curry pastes . . . but, the Thai green and red do not have as many variations as those of Indian and Sri Lankan provinces etc and I also have a tendency to buy from some of the local small spice merchants. Hope kaffir lime trees can be grown in Holland – a very worthwhile exercise . . .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Stefan – I have grown many such in large pots – usually absolutely fine as long as it is reasonably near a window and does not have to make love to a nearby heater ! Be well 🙂 !

        Liked by 1 person

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