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Asam ikan pedas – fish curry

Elizabeth Haigh

A classic, hot and sour Nonya dish from Elizabeth Haigh’s new cookbook, Makan  

Recipe Meta


15 mins (including soaking the tamarind)


30 mins






  • 4 tbsp cooking oil
  • 3 aubergines, cut into 2cm chunks
  • 5 sprigs of laksa leaves (or torch ginger flower buds)
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 quantity tamarind juice (45g pulp soaked for 10 mins in 500ml boiling water and strained)
  • 8 okra, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium-sized tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Caster sugar, to taste
  • 1.2-1.5kg sea bream or mackerel

For the rempah

  • 2 candlenuts or macadamia nuts
  • 3cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed and stalks roughly chopped
  • 4 banana shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 20 dried, medium-hot red chillies
  • 10g belachan (fermented shrimp paste)


Grind all the rempah ingredients together in a blender (adding them in the order listed) to make a paste. If the paste becomes too thick, add a little water. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat then quickly fry the aubergine until golden brown all over. Remove the aubergine pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate covered in kitchen paper.

Keeping the pan on the heat, next sauté the rempah in the oil, stirring constantly, until a richly coloured oil starts to seep from it – about 10 mins. Add the laksa and lime leaves, and continue to sauté for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add the tamarind juice and bring to the boil. Add the fried aubergines, okra and tomato. Add sugar and salt to taste.

Lay the fish in the sauce and simmer for 10 mins or until the fish is cooked.

Remove the laksa stalks, pull off the leaves and tear the leaves roughly into pieces. Sprinkle on to the gravy. Serve with steamed white rice.

Recipe from Makan: Recipes from the Heart of Singapore (Bloomsbury Absolute)
Image: Kris Kirkham

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