Nyonya Assam, or literally sour spicy. This style of cooking is a unique blend of cuisine combining classic Chinese culinary methods with the local Malaysian spices. It is not only hot but also “addictively” sour as well thanks to the tamarind (or better known locally as assam/asam), it is also healthy with add on lots of vegetables (optional), eg. lady’s fingers, tomatoes and eggplants, and mostly, it does not contain coconut milk- hence relatively low-fat compared to other curries and keeps better in our tropical climate.
Net Weight per packet: 250g
This is a very popular dish in Penang. The taste of this curry is a mixture of sweet, sour and spicy flavours and it goes really well with rice. For this recipe, I use the Nonya Assam readymade paste or any fish paste from your local Asian Grocer. Once you have the readymade paste, it is really easy to make.
As for the fish, ideally I would love to use stingray (ikan pari). We can get it in Australia, which I will try soon. However for this exercise, I am going to use a white fish cutlet – and I found Mackerel to be just as good, and it is easy to get hold of.
Check out the recipe below and share your experience with us on the Facebook page.
5 Tbsp cooking oil
1 Mackerel cutlet (or any white fish)
1 packet of Nonya Assam Paste (you can get this paste from any chinese grocer)
6-8 okra (lady’s finger) – If you like okra, add more.
2 tomatoes – cut into wedges
- Steam okra for 2 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
- Wash the fish, pat dry with kitchen towel.
- Rub salt and corn flour on the fish.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil, pan fry the fish for 1 minute on each side – set aside.
- In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil. Once the oil is hot, add the curry paste and stir for 1 minute. (Be careful as the paste will splash.)
- Add fish cutlets into the paste, stir for 30 seconds, then add water and stir gently.
- Add in tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat until fish is cooked.
- Switch off heat, and add okra.
- Serve hot with rice.
Number of people: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Another simple recipe with ikan pari:
Today I am going to share with you an easy way to cook a Malaysian style assam fish curry. One of the quickest ways to get your dish out within half an hour is to have all the gravy and sauces made prior to cooking. You can prepare the curry pastes yourself, like most of my friends do, or you can stock up on all the readymade pastes.
For the fish, you can use either fish head, cutlets, or for me, I just love stingray or in Malaysian term – “ikan pari”. The reason is this is the fish that we used to have in Penang when we talked about fish curry. It taste great and the flesh is tender and delicate. On top of that, the price was very reasonable as well; it costs roughly between $5-$7 per kilo from the Fish Market in Sydney.
For the paste, I am using the readymade Nonya Assam Paste. Add 600ml of water to each packet of 250g paste. Each pack is good for 4 people (roughly).
This is what you need:
Half kilo okra (lady’s finger) – remove head and tail.
4 ripe tomatoes – cubed
1 large Brinjal /egg plant – cubed
2 kilo stingray / ikan pari – cut into small pieces
3 packets of Nonya Assam Pastes
- *Steam okra / ladies finger separately for 2 minutes until soft. Set aside.
- Mix 600ml water to 250g paste. So I’ve added 1.2litre** of water to 3 packets of Assam paste.
- Allow the paste to boil, add fish. Simmer for 5 minutes until fish*** is almost cooked, add tomatoes and egg plant. Continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes or until fish is cooked. Tune off the heat.
- Add okra to the dish and stir to mix well with the curry – no further cooking is needed.
- Serve hot with rice.
Number of people: 12
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
* The reason we steam the okra instead of cooking them in the gravy is because okra tends to get slimy and sticky when you cook it. You avoid that by steaming.
** Normally you would need about 1.8litres of water for 3 packets of paste; however, I would recommend leaving the remaining 600ml of water to be added gradually after you taste it, as some of you may not need too much water depending on the fish you use. Also some people like the sauce thicker and more sourish. So add the remaining water according to your palate.
*** You can actually pan fry the fish prior to cooking. This is entirely up to you. When you pan fry, you need not boil the fish in the gravy, thus having a better chance of staying “intact” when you add it to the gravy. This is another recipe for frying the fish.
About the Nonya Assam Curry Paste: This is an authentic recipe Assam paste from Penang. The taste is already there; you just need to add water and fresh ingredients. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.
This is the paste I use:
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