Gulai Ikan

Fish Curry


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Flavors of Indonesia

By William Wongso

Published 2016

  • About

It may seem intimidating for a first timer to eat a fish head. But actually there is a large quantity of meat inside a fish head. Most importantly, the meat inside a fish head is full of flavor. You can use any kind of white-fleshed fish, but choose ones that have less fat, like barramundi.


  • 500 gr snapper fish head
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 10 sheets lime leaves
  • 1 sheet turmeric leaves or curcuma leaves (optional)
  • 1 liter coconut cream
  • 10 gr salt (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 50 ml cooking oil
  • 10 sheets curry leaves
  • 300 ml water
  • 3 cm cinnamon
  • 3 pcs cardamom
  • 4 pcs tamarind

Spices paste

  • 50 gr shallot (about 10 cloves)
  • 30 gr garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 30 gr ginger
  • 2 gr coriander powder
  • 2 gr cumin
  • 10 gr nutmeg
  • 5 gr turmeric or curcuma
  • 150 gr red chilli
  • 2 gr pepper
  • 30 gr galangal



  1. Make spice paste: Process shallot, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, red chilli, pepper and galangal in a blender or food processor till smooth.
  2. Sauté spice paste until fragrant. Add coconut cream. Keep stirring until the oil from coconut milk starts to separate out.
  3. Add water and fish head. Cook over medium heat until the fish head is tender and the sauce is thick.
  4. Take the fish head, set aside. Strain the sauce. Put the fish head into a serving bowl. Pour sauce over the fish. Serve immediately.

Fish Curry Ravioli


A simpler version is to serve gulai ikan. Use fish fillet instead of fish head. Dice up the fillet and use it to fill up a piece of homemade pasta dough to turn the traditional gulai ikan into modern day ravioli.