CF 8/60 Basic Malaysian/Indian Fish Curry

  • Servings : 4
  • Prep Time : 30m
  • Cook Time : 25m
  • Ready In : 55m


500g fish (small variety-whole i.e. Tommy)

seasoning of salt, pepper, flour for dusting and oil (see method for options)

2 tomatoes – quartered

1 medium onion-sliced

3 dessertspoons – fish curry powder (see variation)

1 level teaspoon – ground turmeric

1 teaspoon – chili powder (optional)

2 cloves garlic-crushed

1 level teaspoon – mustard seeds

1 level teaspoon – fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon – black cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon – fenugreek seeds

few curry leaves

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

3 tablespoons cooking oil

2 cups water


I am quite fond of using Tommy Ruff, Mackerel, Leather Jacket, any type of fish that is small in size and left whole. Remove the gut and scales from the fish. The head can be left whole or removed. Season the fish with salt and pepper and roll it in or dust over it with flour (for gluten-free option use other flour) and shake off any extra flour and keep aside. Add some oil to a pan, when hot shallow fry the fish on each side till golden approximately for 3 to 5 minutes on each side depending of the thickness of the fish. If you fry the fish first it will hold it together. Remove and set aside on an absorbent towel. You could however do away with this process if you don’t have the time but the fish will tend to fall apart in the curry if you don’t treat it carefully. Frying it first not only helps to firm it up but it also adds extra flavour.

In a pot/pan on medium to high heat add the cooking oil followed by curry leaves, and whole spices. When the mustard seeds start to pop while stirring you need to lower the heat to medium or low, then add the onion,  stir and cook till soft.  Add the garlic and cook till golden. Now add all the ground spices with salt and pepper and dry fry these on low for roughly 2 to 3 minutes making sure to stir to avoid burning the spices. Add the water and tomatoes, cover and bring to boil.  Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Lower the fish and simmer for further 5 to 10 minutes. For more curry sauce add a little more water then check the seasoning. Serve over rice or bread. Garnish with green fresh herbs as desired.

Variations and My Story

There are a number of ways to cook a good fish curry. You may use a firmer fish with fewer bones and cut it into chunks or slices. When you have lived in a country such as Malaysia or South East Asia it is hard not to try all the varieties on offer there. The majority of fish curries made there are with the flesh and bone intact. Fillet of fish is a modern taste that now is very much part of Malaysia. When young I remember sitting at a table with Mum and both of us enjoying the bony fish and not complaining about it at all, however my siblings didn’t stay as long at the table because they preferred fish with no bones!  Every home does curry differently so mine suits my life by me using bought fish curry power which does the job. Various vegetables are used in a fish curry e.g. egg plants, okra to name couple. I shall elaborate on these in another recipe. Enjoy!

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