Fish Curry

Origin: Java


  • 5 pc Pangasius oder Mackerel-Steak, washed
  • juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp soak in 2 tbsp water
  • 5 pc salam leavesor bay leaves
  • 1 cm fresh galangale, bruished
  • 1 stem lemon grass, outer leaves discarded, crashed
  • 2 pc kaffir lime leaves
  • 500 ml very thick coconut milk
  • 50 ml oil for frying
  • 2 tsp salt or to taste

Spice for the paste

  • 2 pc large red chillies, chopped
  • 6 pc small red chillies / bird chillies (optional)
  • 4 pc shallots, chopped
  • 3 gloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cm fresh turmeric or 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, chopped
  • ½ tsp cumin powder

Fish Curry

There are many different varieties of Indonesian curry. Each is special and unique!!!. One of those varieties is called "Gulai or Gule". This dish is very popular in most part of Java and West Sumatra region. I've got this recipe from my grandmother, one who's spent almost her private, social and profesional life in the kitchen ;-).
Personally I would say "Gulai" is considered to be a ligt or a mild curry, compared to it's heavy sort of currys which usually contain some distinctive curry spices such as : cinnamon, clove, cumin and cardamom. However it doesn't mean that this recipe lack of curry's taste and flavour. In contrary if you are a kind of Curry's fans but do not like a strong aromatic smell of the above mentioned spices, then I will recommend you to try this once. If you don't like fish, there is also another variant of Javanese Gulai/light curry dish made from goat/lamb, called Gule Kambing.


  • Put the fish in a bowl and mix with salt and lime or lemon juice.
  • Keep aside for 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  • Heat 50 ml oil in a frying pan, fry the fish until golden brown. Set aside to drain.
  • Put all ingredients for the seasoning paste in a blender or food processor & blend until smooth. (If necessery add a little bit oil to help the blending process).
  • Heat 2 tbsp used oil in a another frying pan, stir-fry the paste all the time until fragrant. (Don't add oil if already added in a blender during the blending process).
  • Add lemon grass, galangale, kaffir-lime leaves. Stir to mix.
  • Transfer the paste to a large saucepan. Add the fish, tamarind water and bay leaves.
  • Pour in the coconut milk, bring to boil then reduce the heat to simmer and stir often for 15 minutes.

Important Tipp

  • If you're using blender or food processor instead of mortar or grinding stone to make a spice paste, you will probably need to add some liquid to help the blending process. Therefore there is an important method to be noted to get the optimum result.
  • 1st: If the spice paste should be fried first in a hot oil then you should add a little amount of OIL into the grinder/blender.
  • 2nd : If the spice will be simmered in either water, coconut milk or broth then adding the specified liquid or a small amount of water is recommended. But please do not apply it vice versa, otherwise you could absolutely ruin the taste 😉
Keyword chillies, coconut milk, curry, fish, Indonesian

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