Assam Fish Curry

Assam Fish Head with lady’s finger, pineapple, tomato

Curry leaf

Curry leaf plant – almost a tree

Limau Purut or Kaffir lime leaf

Finally, an assam fish curry that’s passable to cook at home, if I should crave for it.  Generally, I prefer to eat assam fish head curry in a restaurant. But sometimes, your favorite restaurant close down, (because the chef runs away) – which happened twice. And now, our current favorite is in West Coast.

The magic is in the pineapple and fresh fish!   If chilli is too hot, add brown sugar.  I use shavings of Gula Melakka which gives it a nice bouquet, and the chilli doesnt bite my tongue that much. I’m not sure if this is authentic, but I like the aromatics of chilli without burning my tongue.   Other recipes call for laksa leaf (daun kesom) which I don’t have, so I substitute for curry leaves (which I have tree load full) and limau purut.

Curry leaf plant thrives in hot sun.  The minah propagates it via seeds from the berries which it loves. The limau purut is a shade plant, and in my mom’s place it has grown into a huge plant too, with lovely big leaves.   Her Malay neighbour mince limau purut and serve it with sambal belachan chilli and a twist of lime.  Sambal belachan doesnt keep well in the fridge, so I don’t indulge myself with any in the fridge.  Serve it with freshly fried prawn crackers. Heavenly.  (Refrain as its bad for the throat. I’m careful with heaty food.)

Ingredients for curry paste

4 Shallots

Ginger (Old, young and blue – but I use old ginger only)

1 Chilli

2 pc dried chilli

few pieces of tamarind pulp (pingpong ball size), soaked in water

1/2 piece belachan (black smelly shrimp paste)

2 stalks lemongrass (white portion only)

1. Pound, blend ingredients above.  Stir-fry with 2 stalks of curry leaves and 3 pieces of limau purut. Set aside.

2. Steam fish for 10 mins.

3. Remove fish and place fish in pot with (1).  Add water and cubes of pineapple.  Add chopped vegetables (lady’s finger, tomato, long beans).  Bring to boil and simmer for 15 mins.






Bracing for the summer: Lemon Grass tea drink

one week break before term starts.    I’m chilling out.

L stocks the fridge with mangoes and lychees.

Ahhhh…  Lemon grass drink. $3 for a glass in a Thai restaurant.

Can I attempt to DIY?  Love the smell of lemongrass and ginger flower. Spicy, exotic. Refreshing. Unique.

1) 3 stalks of lemon grass stem from garden.  Remove outer coat. Cut off 1 cm of each side – discard.

2) Crush to release fragrance and cut to smaller pieces.

3) Add pandan leaves (screw pine) from garden for extra fragrance – optional. (My pandan leaves are thriving in the pond this summer and crowding out the fishes.)

4) Add 4 litres of water.  Bring to boil for 15 mins.

5) Add 5 tbsp of sugar. (More if you like it sweet)

6) Discard lemon grass and pandan leaves. Serve either hot or cold.


3 stalks of lemon grass

Crushed lemon grass and pandan leaves with water.

Pandanus Amarylifolius

Pandanus grow in soil or water.  Mine is grown soil-less in the pond, and its thriving as a waterplant. No fertilising required. Experiment with the ones you get from the market, tiny roots hanging- voila, an edible garden.

In Southeast Asian dessert, we add pandan leaves to almost everything.  We have pandan chiffon cake. We boil greenbean soup with pandan leaves.  Thais wrap pandan leaves to chicken pieces and fry it and even make little dessert baskets for jelly.  So I was really surprised to find out that the PRC Chinese (vs Southeast Asian Chinese) can’t stand the smell of pandan leaves.)

For that matter, taxis put pandan leaves to ward off cockroaches too.  JL, our chef friend taught us a trick to ward off houseflies. Apparently, they don’t like the smell of fresh mint.  He demo-ed it when we were having pizza at BaiSha, Li Jiang.  Well.