Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gulai Ikan 娘惹咖喱魚 Nyonya Fish Curry

My blog is almost 2 months old and I just realised I have posted only one curry recipe, namely the very lonely Malaysian chicken curry mee . My family and friends back home are wondering why being a huge curry fan, there is such a lame effort in my curry department. With left over spices and herbs (used for asam laksa ) like lemongrass, turmeric, shallots, ginger flower and Vietnamese mint saying hello to me every time I open the fridge, I thought it might be a very good time to cook some fish curry tonight.
They are many fish curry recipes out there with slight differences; some are heavily influenced by Indian cooking, this is more a Malay/Nyonya version. I have been eating this since I was very little and started making the spice paste as soon as I was strong enough to work the mortar and pestel!. As more wet spices are used in this curry, the taste is naturally lighter and fresher than an Indian curry, one of the reasons why I used snapper fillets as oppose to stronger fish like spanish mackeral. With all the added vegetables in the dish all you need is plenty of plain rice or some roti to mop up the very tasty gravy!!
I kept thinking how lucky I am to grow up with not just the freshest produce but also the endless array of cuisines to choose from. I think Malaysian cuisine is such a unique and exciting one because people are forever so willing to adopt new ingredients and ideas from others, this dish is a great example of that openness!!
P.S Quite lavish when it comes to the preparation, this is also to celebrate one of the tummies promotion at work.

serves 4 with plenty of plain rice
for the curry paste you'll need;
a knob of ginger, sliced
10 shallots, sliced
3 cloves of garlic
5 red chilies, sliced
1 knob of galangal, sliced
10 dried chilies, soaked and cut into pieces (remove seeds for a milder curry)
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped (white part only)
a small piece of turmeric (or 2 tbs of turmeric powder)
1 tbs of cumin powder
3 tbs of coriander powder
a small piece of shrimp paste (toasted)
Blend everything til you get a wet paste

you'll also need;
1 kg of snapper fillet cut into large pieces, mixed with a dash of turmeric powder, pan fried
15 okras, blanched and refreshed
10 long beans, cut into 2.5" pieces, blanched and refreshed
1 eggplant or 3 Japanese eggplant, cut into bite size pieces
1 can (400ml) of coconut milk
3 tamarind peels
3 tbs of tamarind paste
half a ginger flower
2.5 l of water
half a ginger flower, thinly sliced
1 red chili, thinly sliced
mint leaves

Fry curry paste with 4 tbs of cooking oil til oil separate.

Add water, coconut milk, ginger flower, vietnamese mint, tamarind paste and peels and water and simmer for 20 minutes

Cook eggplants til tender and add blanched long beans, okras and tomato pieces follow by the fish.

Bring it back to a boil and check for seasoning.

Serve it in a large bowl, garnish with sliced ginger flower, chilies and mint. Oh plenty of plain rice please!!


  1. I just had a great fish head curry in Mukah last week, made with a huge groupa fish head. Can't wait to go back to Mukah again.

    Hey 3 HT. It's time you introduce the other 2 HTs. They are such lucky Bs !

  2. Hi, May I know if you used padi chillies or those big red chillies?

  3. Oh CW we can't get groupa here, what a delicious fish! But sometimes I am giving big rockling head, I should try to make the Indian version.
    The other tummies have appeared at all celebrations :)

    Hey Kenny I used the big red ones as this is not a very hot curry at all. I used the medium size dried chilies, get rid of the seeds if you want to have it mild.

  4. This is tempting me at winter time here. :O

  5. Wow this is a beautiful bowl of curry!! I'm making Asam laksa tonight, I should have enough ingredients for this over the weekend!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  6. Haha tigerfish! Time for you to make some curry then!!!

    Oh BIBI you are making asam laksa tonight!? That's great!!! Let me know how it turns out :)

  7. though the name is out of my range and speech but the curry appears good :)

  8. Awwwwww....what a lovely curry fish dish , the color looks amazing ! I intend to cook ikan assam pedas tonight , pls come over and join us ok !

  9. This curry makes me hungry. Using okra and snapper, it has to be incredible. It is too bad okra is so hard to come by here in the midwest. I will have to give this a try though.

  10. Thanks Abhilash!! :)

    Thanks A Full-Timed Housefly ! I love Asam pedas, it is a lot healthier too! You better cook a lot more if you are inviting me haha!

    Thanks Cocina Savant ! just use beans and eggplants it will be just as good!

  11. oh wow what a great curry i can smell it from here, boy you can cook tweeting this lol

  12. Awsome looking dish!!

  13. Oh!! you finally have a curry!! This one looks really light without too much dried spices, my kind of curry!! Very nice indeed!

  14. Thanks Anonymous !!

    Thanks love to eat! I know finally a proper curry, more to come :)

  15. That sounds great with all the fresh spices. Congratulations to the promoted tummy!

  16. Looks delicious! Only ever had the Malaysian fish head curry, that was very much liked an Indian curry. This one sounds good with all the fresh spices!!

  17. Oh another masterpiece! well done!!

  18. Oh this looks good! I am not a big fan of Indian curries so this is perfect for me!! Thanks for sharing!

  19. that looks sooo good!!! must try it sometime

  20. Thanks Arwen from Hoglet K! I'll pass on the greeting!! :)

    Thanks Fitzboy! Yeah it is a lot lighter than the fish head curry which is more of an Indian curry.

    Oh thanks Harriet!!

    Thanks Michele! Give it a try!!

    Thanks and this blog!! U must!!!

  21. Delicious looking dish! The step by step format makes it very easy to follow, thanks!!

  22. Oh thanks vicki hopefully you'll give it a try!

  23. Wow, you pound from fresh herbs and spices into curry paste. In my lazy day, I made fish head curry with commercially available instant pack that spared me from all these troubles. :)

  24. I dont cook it that often haha, n i did have leftover spices fro making my assam laksa :)

  25. I am searching for a Penang Nyonya Fish Curry. So glad to stumble upon yours. The one I ate in Penang was so good that it left a lasting craving for it!

  26. I tried this recipe today and it was a HIT!!! I simply loved it. Thanx for sharing.

  27. Manpreet,

    Thanks for trying the recipe and I am glad it turned out well. :)


Please leave a note. I love to know what you think!

press me

3 hungry tummies

My photo
melbourne, victoria, Australia