Monday, August 6, 2012

Ikan Gerang Asam / Nyonya Tamarind Fish (MFF - Melaka)

In conjunction of Malaysian Food Fest (MFF), as a Malaysian, I don't find any reason for not supporting this. A group of bloggers (included myself) would like to introduce culinary specialties of all states in Malaysia, and wished to encourage readers to give a try replicating state dishes at home. I think this is really fun and interesting.

We will have different state specialties in different month. This month is about Melaka. So, Nyonya dishes :)

As my 1st submission to MFF for Melaka month, I'm recreating the Ikan Gerang Asam (Nyonya Tamarind Fish) recipe that Wendy posted.

Ikan Gerang Asam / Nyonya Tamarind Fish
I'm not a Nyonya person. And I know not much about their dishes. I only know how to eat. Haha. Nyonya Cuisines is about combination of Chinese and Malay cooking. I really adore the ingredients they used, especially their perfect spices combination. And this a kind of dish that usually make you eat more rice.

I feel stressed when I knew I'm gonna recreate this dish. Not on the cooking part, but the part when I knew I have to gather all these ingredients. Living in Singapore, not all markets sell everything that you wanted. Some important traditional ingredients has obsolete in some places because modern people doesn't really use such ingredients for their cooking.

Something missing in the picture. Yes! Galangal is missing. Read on... and you will know about "The tale of galangal" later part.

I have hard time looking for kaffir lime leaf. I showed the picture of kaffir lime leaf to my mother-in-law, and also my colleague. They argue with me, says that this is Pomelo leaf wo. This is so... Fail! Haha! I went to the wet market, I asked the curry powder stall owner, he told me that this is lemon leaf, they don't sell. I was like... "Urgh! Ok, thank you uncle", and I walked away. In the end, I found my kaffir lime leaf at a veggie stall. But with that small amount of leaf, they asked me for 30cts! Expensive can?! I show my super unhappy face while I so unwillingly digging my coins from my pouch, and end up, he ask me for 20cts only. Hahaha!

Now, prepare the ingredients 1st. All the ingredients I used is exactly the same. But for the ratio, it's slightly different. Because I adopt the "agak-agak" (estimation) logic here. Hehe..

Ingredients (Recipe Source : Wendyinkk / Original recipe from Florence Tan)
  • 400gm Mackerel (Tenggiri)
  • 38gm Tamarind Pulp + 380ml Water
  • 10 Young Okra, trimmed
  • 2 pcs Kaffir Lime Leaf / 枫柑叶
  • 5 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 3 tsp Sugar
Spice Paste - Grind everything into a paste
  • 10gm Dried Chilli / 辣椒干, remove seeds and soak for 10 mins.
  • 100gm Shallots
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 2½ Candle Nut / Buah Keras / 石栗
  • 5gm Tumeric Root 黄姜, cleaned weight
  • 10gm Galangal / 南姜, cleaned weight
  • 2 Lemongrass / 香茅, 4 inches from the base
  • 5gm Belachan / Dried shrimp paste
  1. Prepare spice paste and grind everything together. You could prepare this 2 to 3 hours in advance. Clingwrap it and keep it aside or in the fridge if you want. No problem at all.
  2. Scoop Tamarind into a bowl of 380ml water. With both hands, rub the tamarind pulp, strain the water and discard the seed. We only need the water.
  3. Heat oil in a wok, under medium heat, add in spice paste. Fry it for awhile, and lower the fire to medium low heat. Continue to fry until the paste is ready. Be patient. You will know it is ready when the paste looks slight glossy and the oil seems to ooze out. As if the oil started to separate with the spice paste. And the spice paste aroma is all over your kitchen by now.
  4. Add tamarind water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer for 4 minutes. Add salt and sugar. Taste and adjust to your individual liking. If you find it too spicy, you could add more sugar to neutralize it.
  5. Add in fish and kaffir lime leaf, gently scoop the sauce to cover the kaffir lime leaf and fish. Still under low heat, let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Flip the fish gently. Add in okra, simmer for another 2 to 3 minutes. Heat off and dish up.
Note : Incase you have problem removing seed from the dried chillis. Here, use a scissor cut the dried chilli into half, and remove the chilli. Don't bother about the shape of the dried chilli, because you are going to grind them into paste anyway.

And it's now ready to cook? At 1st, I thought so. But actually, not...

Before I start cooking, I did a quick revision by reading Wendy's blog one more time. To my horror, I realized that missed out something!!! I missed out Galangal!!! *Arrgh!!*

My heart sunken..... like a Titanic. I thought I have to give up this dish.

I screamed and I wanna bang my head to the wall. I kept asking myself how could I left this ingredient out??!! For instance, my mind turned blank and don't know what to do.
Okays, I cooled down. I tell my husband about it. He asked if I could proceed without galangal. I'm not too sure. So, I text Wendy and I text Alan too. Both Wendy and Alan told me that galangal is important for this dish. But it is already late. All wet markets are closed. NTUC and Cold Storage won't have galangal loh.


I asked my mother in law where to get galangal at this hour. She say "Oh! Use ginger lah! Same mah!"

. . . . . Seriously (*__*)

Okays, nobody could understand how I feel. I think I wanna go and hunt for galangal. But I don't know where to head to. Max is so supportive to this mission and he suggested to go Sheng Siong Supermart to give it a try. So, he drove me there...

And I found my galangal!!!! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED... Yay~!!! 老公万岁!!! :D

I couldn't imagine how would my Ikan Gerang Asam taste without galangal. But I'm pretty sure that it will taste totally different. The aroma of the galangal gives this dish a twist from the usual asam pedas that I had out there. And here, let's see what they say.

Verdict (Husband) : The dish is really nice in overall. But he commented that it is not sour and spicy enough to his liking. Maybe he compare with those asam pedas that is selling outside. He asked if I could double up the Tamarind for more asam (sour) taste, and make it more spicy too.

Verdict (Mother-In-Law) : She seems to love this dish very much. She is a person who can't take too sour and too spicy food. But she likes this dish, and had two bowls of rice.

Verdict (Myself) : I love the thickness of the sauce and the taste of the spices combination. It taste so so so so Malaysia! Hehe... I think I will repeat this dish in future, and increase more Tamarind and dried chilli as per my husband's request. Well, this is really very much depends on individual tastebud.

When I'm stir-frying the spice paste, I already knew I would love this dish like mad. I took the okra and a small portion of fish. I scoop two big tablespoons of the sauce and drizzle it straight on top of my white rice. Yea, 1 bowl of rice is gone! Wuuahahahahaa!!!

Although this dish require some effort. But when I see them enjoyed the dish, I think all my effort is really worthwhile :)

I am submitting this to Malaysian Food Fest, Melaka Month
Hosted by Cindy of Yummy Little Cooks

This post has been featured in Asian Food Channel (AFC) Facebook


  1. this is one of my favorite Peranakan dishes and definitely one which I prepare the most often at home! Glad you finally made it!

    for extra spicy and sour oomph, add 1-2 chilli padi to tumbuk the rempah and buah belimbing to the cooking! shiok!

  2. Yep! I will add chilli padi next time. Hehe... But buah belimbing is so near yet so far lah! Haha..

  3. Phew, at last you manage to cook this tasty dish ;)
    I agreed with Alan, add buah belimbing, sometimes we add buah belimbing into our shiok.
    And thanks for taking part :)

  4. Yummylittlecooks, MFF is really encouraging. It makes me wanna make more :)

  5. I just cannot tahan to see spicy food. This asam fish really make me drooling in front of the computer :)

  6. Hi DG, This is the thing. Never read food blog when you are feeling hungry! Hahahaha... But then, sometimes, can't help it. I know. I drool infront of my computer very often too! :D

  7. Your photo looks really good!!...

  8. Annie, I have cooked asam pedas without galangal before and it is still alright. There are some people who don't like the smell. But you were so determined, eh? Admire the spirit! You cooked it so well too. And next time, add some fish sauce :)

  9. Joan, It doesnt only looks delicious. It taste delicious too! :D

    Phong Hong, Yep, it works without galangal too. It's just asam pedas la. My friend told me that Melaka style is with galangal. Yupe! Thanks for your suggestion. I will try to add some fish sauce in it next time :)