Ikan Asam Pedas is a deliciously hot and sour Malay fish curry found from Singapore and Malaysia. It is almost always served with plain, white rice
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
A little Malay Language lesson:
Ikan – fish
Asam – sour, also tamarind (the souring agent in this recipe)
Pedas – chilli spicy, hot
Ikan Asam Pedas = Hot and Sour Fish
Ikan Asam Pedas Recipe
This sour Malay fish curry is a very easy recipe to make. It takes only about 20 minutes to cook and doesn’t need that many ingredients.
This is how we do it:
- Grind the paste ingredients.
- Fry the paste and lemongrass (3 minutes).
- Add the tamarind, water and vegetables (about 10 minutes).
- Finally, add the fish (5 minutes).
Ikan Asam Pedas Ingredients
I think the only “pesky” ingredient in this recipe is the traditional herb used, Vietnamese Coriander, or Daun Kesum in Malay.
But let’s just take a look at a couple of ingredients that you may not be too familiar with.
Daun Kesum (Vietnamese Coriander)
Click here to read more (this link is on my original website LinsFood, it’ll open in a new tab). It’s lemony, spicy, tangy, and captures so much that is South East Asian Cooking, this is one of my favourite herbs ever!
Here in the UK, daun kesum plants are now very easily available, there are 2-3 Ebay sellers selling them, throughout the year. Get it once, place it in water, watch the roots grow, then pot it up.
Substitute: there is no substitute for Vietnamese Coriander. If you can’t get it, finish your ikan asam pedas with some freshly chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) just before serving.
Click here to read more (this link is on my original website LinsFood, it’ll open in a new tab). Tamarind is a souring agent used in many, many cuisines around the world. It’s a tropical fruit that grows as a pod on the tamarind tree.
You can buy it as a pulp, as a paste and as dry-ish thin, flat slices, depending on where you are.
Substitute: the best substitute for tamarind is the good old white (clear) vinegar. It gives you the same sour flavour in a recipe. Lime and lemon juice are ok subsitutes as they also impart a citrusy flavour when used, and are more complex in their nature.
The Fish for Ikan Asam Pedas
Any white fish will do. The firmer the fish, the less likely it is, to break up while cooking. I’m using seabass in the video below, but any white fish like cod, monkfish or haddock will work very well.
Locally, ray and pomfret are also quite popularly used in this Malay fish curry.
How to serve Ikan Asam Pedas
As mentioned right at the start, it’s traditionally served with plain, steamed rice. White is best, brown if that’s the way you roll. In my opinion, bread doesn’t quite work here.
However, if you are using boneless fish, you can definitely serve this hot and sour curry with noodles, much along the lines of Laksa and the Burmese Mohinga. Any kind of noodles will do, although rice noodles will take on the flavour best.
Noodles, while not traditional at all with ikan asam pedas, work too.
Okay then, now that we’ve got that covered, let’s go take a look at how easy this fish curry is.
Time to get cooking!
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Ikan Asam Pedas (Hot and Sour Malay Fish Curry)
- Food chopper
- 15-20 dried red chillies non smoky
- 1 large, brown onion
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- 2.5 cm ginger
- 2.5 cm fresh turmeric OR ¼ tsp ground
The Rest of the Ingredients
- 400 g white fish, cut into large pieces OR 4 fish fillets, skin on – the skin will help to keep the fish intact
- 1 heaped Tbsp tamarind pulp
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 12 okra (left whole) OR 1 large eggplant, sliced
- 1 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
- 3 Vietnamese Coriander stalks omit if unavailable
- ½ tsp salt
- 250 ml water
Soak the dried chillies and tamarind
- Cut up the chillies with a pair of scissors and place in a bowl. Pour over hot, almost boiling water, cover and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
- Place the tamarind in a bowl and top with about 5 Tbsp of hot water, and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
Chop up all the other ingredients while waiting
- Quarter the onion and place in a chopper. Add the garlic, ginger and turmeric.
- Cut off the top quarter of the lemongrass and discard. With the back of your knife, pound down hard on the thick end to smash it. Set aside
- Quarter the tomatoes and set aside.
- Rinse the okra and cut off any unsightly dark stalk ends (not the tips).
Grind the paste ingredients
- Rinse and drain the soaked chillies, discarding the seeds. Add to the chopper (that’s already got the onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric).
- Chop everything up to a fairly fine paste. Add a little water if you need to, but the onions should provide enough moisture.
Let’s cook the ikan asam pedas
- Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat and fry the paste ingredients for 2 minutes.
- Add the lemongrass and fry for a minute.
- Mash the soaked tamarind up with your fingers and strain through a large mesh sieve into the saucepan. Stir and cook for a minute.
- Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add the okra and bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. If your okra is young, they’ll need about 10 minutes. Older okra need less time to cook.
- Add the fish, tomatoes, Vietnamese coriander and salt, and bring back to a simmer. Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish.
- When the fish is done, check the seasoning, and add more salt if you need it. Take off the heat and serve with some rice. Ikan asam pedas can be reheated gently on the stove, so as not to break up the fish.