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A plate of pumpkin and pork curry, with tea by the side to help wash down the creaminess of the dish

Singaporean assam fish coconut curry

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine peranakan, singaporean, Southeast Asian


  • Knife and cutting board
  • Granite mortar and pestle (do not use a ceramic one or you will end up cursing and swearing) Alternatively, give everything a blitz in the blender but it doesn't quite release the flavours in the same way
  • Pan


  • 450 g white fish fillets (gutted and descaled) Wash in salt water, then drain dry and cut into 1,5 cm pieces. In Singapore, we use ikan tenggiri, ikan merah and ikan kurau, but you can also use a white fish like cod or tilapia.
  • 100 ml coconut cream, mixed with 1 Chinese bowl of water Alternatively grate ½ a coconut and mix it with 225 ml of water
  • 1 T tamarind paste Mix it with ¼-1/2 Chinese bowl of water
  • salt to taste
  • 2 T vegetable oil, or to taste Don't use olive oil! Canola or sunflower works (palm oil is the traditional choice in South East Asia)

Rempah (to be pounded together- cut all the ingredients, where possible, before pounding)

  • 4 dried chillies
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (white part/ base) Chop extra fine before pounding to make life easier for yourself
  • 1 piece turmeric Substitute with turmeric paste or powder if you don't have fresh onhand
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 slice ginger Peel with the back of a spoon if you wish- i sometimes leave the skin on!


  • Cut all the ingredients for the rempah, then pound (or blend) till fine.
  • Heat the cooking oil then sear the fish till light brown on both sides. Plate
  • In the same pan, add more oil if necessary, then fry the pounded rempah. Keep stirring and frying till the oil separates out and you can smell the fragrance of the ingredients.
  • Add the coconut and fish to the pan. Salt to taste then bring to the boil.
  • Add the tamarind juice and simmer for another 2-3 minutes or till the fish is cooked. Add more water or salt till the gravy is at your ideal consistency/ tastiness.
  • Serve with white rice


You can substitute fish with pork, but don't use king oyster mushrooms as it doesn't go well with the tamarind and coconut here. 
I sometimes add pumpkin, potatoes or carrots to bulk up the curry.
There is another version of assam fish in Singapore (which is popular better known) that is cooked without coconut. Will share a recipe for that soon!
Keyword fish, seafood