West Sumatran Fish Curry

Beef Randang
Sumatran Chicken Curry
Fish curry
Bubur Jagung
Durian Sambal






Ikan (fish) curry is very popular in Sumatra especially in the West Sumatran province.

1.2 litres/2 pints coconut milk
8-12 dried hot red chillies
2 sticks fresh or 2 tbsp dried sliced lemongrass
4cm/1˝in cube fresh or 5-6 slices dried galangal
15g/˝oz candlenuts or cashew nuts
100g/4oz red pepper
100g/4oz shallots or onions
2.5cm/1in cube fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
˝ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1kg/2lb fish steaks about 2.5cm/1in thick
1˝ tsp salt
2˝ tbsp lime or lemon juice
4 tbsp vegetable oil
4-5 fresh kaffir lime leaves or 7.5x1cm/3x7˝in piece lemon rind
10 fresh curry leaves or 3 dried bay leaves
15-20 fresh mint leaves
8-10 cherry or very small tomatoes


1. Leave the coconut milk to stand for a while until the cream has risen to the top.
2. Crumble the red chillies into a small bowl. Add the dried lemongrass and dried galangal, if you are using them, and the nuts. Add enough water just to cover and leave to soak for 1 hour.
3. If you are using fresh lemongrass, cut about 15cm/6in off each stick, measuring from the bottom and discard the rest. Crush the bulbous bottoms lightly with a hammer or other heavy object and set aside.
4. If you are using fresh galangal, peel and coarsely chop it.
5. Remove the seeds from the red pepper and chop it coarsely. Peel the shallots, ginger and garlic and chop them coarsely.
6. In an electric blender combine the soaked ingredients and their soaking liquid, the fresh galangal (if you are using it), the red pepper, shallots, ginger, garlic, turmeric and paprika. Blend thoroughly, adding another 1-2 tbsp of water if necessary.
7. Rub the fish steaks with ˝ tbsp of the salt and 1 tbsp of the lime juice. Set aside.
8. Coconut cream should have risen to the top of the coconut milk. Spoon it off and set aside. Add enough water to the remaining thin coconut milk to make it up to about 1.5 litres/2˝ pints.
9. Put the oil in a large, preferably non-stick frying pan and set it over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry until the paste turns dark red and separates from the oil. (Turn the heat down a little if neccessary while you do this.)
10. Put in the thin coconut milk-water combination and add the two whole sticks of fresh lemongrass, if you are using it.
11. Bring to the boil, scraping up any hardened juices stuck to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and set aside.
12. Empty the contents of the pan into a sieve set over a bowl and push the sauce through. Return all but 4 tbsp of the sieved sauce to the frying pan and bring it to a simmer.
13. Put the lemon grass sticks back in along with the lime leaves (or lemon rind), curry leaves, mint, the remaining 1˝ tbsp lime juice and the remaining 1 tsp salt. Stir.
14. Now lay the fish steaks in a single layer in the pan and bring its contents to a simmer again over a medium-low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes or until the fish is done, spooning the hot sauce over the steaks frequently.
15. Put the thick coconut cream into a bowl and stir it well. Slowly add the 4 tbsp of reserved sauce and mix it in. Pour this over the fish.
16. Halve the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Cook until everything is just heated through, then serve.



Last updated - 19th March 2009

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