Kari Ikan Mak

Mum’s Fish Curry

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Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

My Rendang isn't Crispy

My Rendang isn't Crispy

By Zaleha Kadir Olpin

Published 2019

  • About

I cook this often for my family, and if I could, I would cook it every day! I adapted this dish from my mum’s recipe which is very spicy, as my younger daughter preferred a creamier sauce. In the UK, I use basa fillet, but in Malaysia, I would always go for whole Spanish mackerel.


  • 4 basa fillets or whole Spanish mackerel, gutted and cleaned, total about 300 g (11 oz)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk curry leaves, stem discarded
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 3 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2.5-cm (1-inch) knob ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 500 ml (16 fl oz / 2 cups) coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp tamarind juice, or to taste
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 3 tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 8 ladies’ fingers, ends trimmed

Tempering Spices

  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds

Spice Paste

  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 Tbsp chilli powder, or to taste
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz / ½ cup) water


  • Cut the fish into small pieces. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the tempering spices and curry leaves. Cover with a lid and let the spices splutter.
  • Add the garlic, shallots and ginger and fry for about 1 minute until fragrant. Turn the heat down.
  • Combine the ingredients for the spice paste and add to the pot. Stir constantly, so the spice paste does not burn. Add more water if it gets too dry. The spice paste is cooked when the oil separates.
  • Add the coconut milk, tamarind juice and salt. Let the curry boil over medium heat for 10 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and ladies’ fingers. Cook for another 2 minutes, until the ladies’ fingers are tender.
  • Add the fish and simmer for 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Serve hot with rice or bread.