Mild from the natural sweetness of the coconut milk and aromatic from the whole spices used, the Moilee is a delicate introduction to the distinctive flavors of the coastal Indian state of Kerala. [Photograph: Prasanna Sankhe]

In the Southern state of Kerala, whole spices form an integral part of the region's cuisine. This traditional shrimp or fish preparation is a window into the distinctive flavors of the region, known more for the aromatic nature of its spices than the actual heat they impart.

Coconut forms an integral part of the cuisine and is used liberally in this dish as well. The resulting amalgamation of naturally sweet coconut milk and fragrant whole spices gives this dish a unique but mild flavor that's decidedly different from the more robust dishes of the north.

You can choose to use a firm fleshed fish if you're not a big fan of shrimp—the taste is just as addictive. Moilee is best served with rice pancakes called Pappalam, but plain white rice and a healthy serving of poppadoms does the trick, too.

About the author: Denise Dsilva Sankhe is a writer & creative director by profession. But that's only when she isn't eating her way across India. She recreates this delicious cuisine in her Mumbai home, which she shares with her husband, who has long since given up his determination to have salads for dinner.


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