Anchovies / Nethili Fry – a Sri Lankan side

Anchovies are also called kozhuva in Kerala, Nethili or natholi in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka and Ikan Bilis in Malaysia. It is a cheap and popular source of protien  in the diet. When eaten fresh, these fishes do not have a strong smell or taste. The strong taste people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. These fishes are gutted and salted in brine, matured, then packed in oil or salt. During this method of preservation they acquire a characteristic strong flavor.

I learned this dry fish fry from a lady who is originally from Sri Lanka. She is very fond of fish and this is one of her favorite dishes. It is more of a condiment than a regular side dish and tastes better when kept for sometime.


  • Anchovies – 15 to 20
  • Onion – 1 big
  • Garlic – 4
  • Curry Leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Green Chilies – 5
  • Tomato – 1 small (optional)


  • Clean the fish by removing the heads of the fish and soak in water for 10 minutes.
  • Wash the dry fish thoroughly and strain the water. Apply the required amount of salt on it and keep aside for 10 minutes.
  • Take a pan and add 1 Tbsp oil. Fry the fish till they are a light brown color. Don’t fry too long as it will get very hard. Keep aside.
  • Add some more oil to the pan and saute the onions and the green chili. Feel free to add more chilies as they will give the heat to this side.
  • Toss in the garlic and the curry leaves and cook till nicely done and soft. Add the tomatoes not if using them. Cook well.
  • Add the fish to this base and cook on a slow flame for about 10 minutes till the flavors are well combined.
  • Serve with hot rice.

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