Spice Island: Fish Curry

The tiny Southeast Asian island-country of Singapore owes much of its history and ethnically diverse cuisine to piquant spices and herbs.

| October/November 2002

Fish Curry 


This spicy curry was created fifty years ago by a cook who came to Singapore from southern India. It has become one of the most popular local dishes in Singapore, where it’s prepared with the sweet meat of the fish head, which is considered a delicacy.


• 6 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2-inch piece of gingerroot
• 1-inch piece of turmeric root (or 1/2 teaspoon dried, powdered turmeric)
• 1 teaspoon dried lemongrass (or 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, sliced)
• 1 to 2 bird-eye chiles (any Thai chile or fresh serrano chiles may be substituted)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon water
• 2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder (mild to medium)
• 2 cups light coconut milk
• 1 cup water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2/3 pound red snapper cut into 1-inch chunks (other firm fish such as orange roughy, sea bass, mahi mahi, or Alaskan pollock may be substituted)
• Pulp and juice of 1 lime
• 6 okra, sliced
• 1/2 eggplant, cut into cubes (or 1 whole Japanese eggplant)
• 1 zucchini, sliced
• 3 carrots, sliced
• 1 green bell pepper, sliced
• 1 tomato, diced

1. Start by preparing the sauce.
2. Coarsely chop the garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and chile.
3. Place in a blender or food processor with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of water to keep the blades free.
4. Grind to a fine mixture.
5. Add the remaining oil to a large pan or Dutch oven; heat and add the blended mixture.
6. Simmer for two or three minutes until fragrant. Add the curry powder and stir for another minute.
7. Add the coconut milk, water, salt, and sugar to the sauce, stirring.
8. Add the fish to the pan, cover, and bring to a boil.
9. Reduce heat to medium, then add the lime juice and pulp.
10. Next add the okra, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, and bell pepper and simmer until vegetables are cooked through.
11. Stir in the diced tomato and cook for another minute. Serve hot over steamed basmati rice.


Laurel Kallenbach writes from her Boulder, Colorado, home about travel, herbal medicine, and holistic health. 



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