Assam Fish Curry

Monday, September 19, 2016

Assam Fish is a sourish, spicy and appetizing dish which my Mum made regularly.

This curry is not creamy and coconut milk is not added. The sour taste comes from the assam keeping and tamarind paste.

This recipe is versatile and can be used for various types of firm-fleshed fish like black pomfret, snapper, buttermilk fillets, cencaru or stingray.

As fish cooks quickly, it is important that you do not overcook it. This means you only need a short time-window. It can be assembled a la minute and this recipe is about doing that. For better control of the texture, I prefer to cook the vegetables separately.

This curry should be accompanied by rice and prawn paste (heh kou). It is my family's tradition to eat fish curry with fingers as they are good bone detectors and the eating experience is different.

This recipe starts with making the rempah or curry. Then cook the fish just before dinner.

For 4 pax:

4 pieces of skinned snapper fillets
1 sprig coriander leaves

For the Rempah
2 tbsps oil
10 shallots, sliced thinly
5 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 thumb-size turmeric, diced or 1 tsp turmeric powder
5 bird’s eye chilli (chilli padi), diced or 2 tsps chilli paste
3 slices dried Garcinia Cambogia fruit (assam keping)
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
240 ml (1 cup) hot water
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemongrass bulbs

Vegetables1 long brinjal (eggplant)
6 ladies fingers (okra)


Preparing the vegetables
Slice the brinjal into bite-size chunks. Cut off the stems of the ladies fingers and slice the ladies fingers diagonally into two. Steam the ladies fingers and brinjal for 4 minutes. Alternatively, you may deep fry the brinjal for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.

Preparing the Curry
Heat up the oil in a wok or pan. Put in the shallot and garlic slices. After frying for 3 minutes, add the turmeric, chilli, assam keping, salt and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Bruise the lemongrass bulbs. Add the hot water, tamarind paste and the lemongrass to the spice paste. Simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust with more salt if you prefer. Add more water and give it a good stir if the curry is getting dry. Crush the kaffir lime leaves with your hand to release the fragrance and add to the curry. 

Add the fish fillet, close the pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked brinjal and okra. Switch off the fire. The curry is now ready. 

When serving, garnish with coriander leaves.

Note: Lime can also be used for the sours. You can replace the tamarind sauce with it.

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  1. This recipe is quite similar to my mum's. We don't use kaffir lime leaves (I had never seen them as a kid in Kuching) and assam keping. Her recipe has more tumeric and is thicker. It works well with sea food.

  2. I suppose she will use tamarind paste for the sour or kalamansi. Many ways to "assam" it and indeed a very local and appetising dish.