Penang Nyonya Fish Curry bursting with flavours
A Nyonya in UK, Culture, Dinner, Healthy, Lunch, Recipes

Penang Nyonya Fish Curry

This post was first published Sept 14 2014

Penang Nyonya fish curry has tamarind as well as coconut milk.

A true fusion of Asian flavours . Comprising sourness from the tamarind, creaminess of coconut and savoury from the salt. In addition, the sweetness is from the vegetables and coconut milk.

This is one of my favourite curries. It gives a taste explosion in the mouth. The torch ginger flower and the mint give it a unique flavour .

The fish is usually a firm fleshed fish, and a dark  one as well, like mackerel, or black pomfret or Ikan Bawal. You can use other types of fish if you wish. You can use cod or other white fish like monk fish which is firm. However, since there is spices, oily fish like mackerel and salmon is a good choice. I find tuna to be a bit to dry and hard for me.

Fish curry on a plate with rice.
Fish curry on a plate with rice.

The ingredients are easily available here in the UK. One word of caution, though. Some of the canned coconut milk are very thick and it will make your curry gravy thick. You will need to adjust it with some water while not forgetting to adjust the sweet, sour and salty tastes as well.

Or, you can use frozen coconut and extract the milk.

Here is the recipe.

Penang Nyonya Fish Curry

A true fusion of Asian flavours . Comprising sourness from the tamarind, creaminess of coconut and savoury from the salt. And sweetness from the vegetables and coconut milk.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Total Time28 mins
Course: Dinner, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Malaysian, Nyonya
Keyword: coconut milk., cumin, curry, curry leaves, fennel, fenugreek, Fish, garlic, ginger, mackerel, Malaysian, mint, mustard seeds, Nyonya, okra, Penang, shallot, Shallots, Tamarind, Tofu puffs, torch ginger flower
Servings: 4


  • Deep sauce pan or wok


  • 2 Sea bream, about 600g to 700g- cleaned and gutted, or 4 Mackerel fillets or 2 mackerel cut into chunks
  • 3 tbsp Fish curry powder or 2 Tbsp curry powder with 1 Tbp of coriander powder if you prefer the curry to be less hot.    

To pound or blend/ chop

  • 6 Shallots
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 2cm Ginger
  • 1 Lemon grass use the fat bulbous part only
  • 1 tbsp Torch ginger paste ( if used) optional
  • 6 Ladies fingers or okra cut into 3 cm lengths
  • 1 Onion – cut into 6 or 8 wedges
  • 1/2 Egg plant
  • 1 Large Tomato cut into 8 wedges or 8 baby tomatoes
  • 4 Bean Curd Puff or tofu puffs sliced into 3 -4 slices each. (optional)
  • 1 1 sprig Mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp Tamarind paste, add 50 ml of water     or, 2 tsp Tamarind concentrate mixed with 50 ml water
  • 200 ml Coconut milk    
  • 1 Sprig Curry leaves
  • 1 Torch ginger, ½ for cooking and ½ for garnishing   Or 1 tbsp paste from a jar (for cooking only) to add to the chilli paste

Spices to pop

  • 1/4 tspn Fennel seeds
  • 1/4 tspn Cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tspn Black Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tspn Fenugreek
  • 2 tbsp Coconut oil or cooking oil of your choice
  • 1 tbsp Sugar or to taste
  • 2 tspn Salt or to taste


  • Put ingredients A in a food processor and blitz until fine. Add in the curry powder and some water to get a paste.
  • If you are using the torch ginger flower from a jar, add it here.
  • Heat up the oil in a pot, or wok, and throw in the spices and let it pop.
  • Then add in the curry paste and fry till fragrant. Add in the curry leaves.
  • Add in the about 200ml to 300 ml of hot water, the tamarind and bring to a boil.
  • Add in the okra, egg-plant, onion, the torch ginger flower and the tofu puffs.
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add the coconut milk, and bring to a boil.
  • Add in the fish and simmer for 2 minutes. Then swish is around.
  • If the fish is thick, you may turn it over but be careful not to break it.
  • Season with salt and some sugar to balance the sourness. Adjust to suit your taste. The flavour should be sour with a balance of sweetness and saltiness.
  • Simmer for 2 minutes and it is done.
  • Garnish with mint leaves and the sliced ginger flower before serving.
  • Serve with rice.



Do not throw away the tamarind pulp and seeds as it can be further used to adjust the sourness of the curry.

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