Assam Fish (阿叁鱼)



This is a recipe that I need no reference from other website. It is a common household dish that was cooked by my late mum since we are very young.


When I started blogging, I have rejected sharing this type of simple home cooked dishes for fear that readers will not accept such recipes. Apparently, lots of blogger are blogging the dish and since i am cooking today, I will also share this recipe too.


This is a recipe that can be as elaborate as you want in terms of herbs used. It can also be as simple liked what is cooked by my late mum. Being hailed from Sarawak where practically there are very few Peranakan community, most Chinese households also knew how to cook this dish . What is different from the West Malaysian version is the use of herbs that are not common in Sarawak such as Bunga kentan or daun kesom etc.. Whether these herbs add to the deliciousness of the dish in my humble opinion is a personal reference. I have a hard time to get use to these two herbs when I stayed in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore but are able to accept it now.


Another reasons that I have excluded these herbs in today’s recipe because I found that a recipe that is overloaded with ingredients will deter readers from trying. Buying a pack of bunga kentan or laksa leaves and using only 10% of it obviously is wasting money .. But if readers insist that this is compulsory in the recipe, you can always add it to suit your taste buds.


The picture in this post may not be as attractive as it should be . The main reasons is the fish used. In this illustration, ikan selar was used and that is what my mum used to cook ..Usually fish selection will based on fish that are fishy in nature after cooking and the concoction of herbs were used to musk such fishiness. Another common fish that we used to cook is ikan bawal hitam or black pomfret.


Better fish such as threadfin, garoupa, batang or tenggiri all can be used but to me it is a waste to use these type of fishes to cook this dish. These better fishes can be steamed or grilled or pan fried to enjoy its freshness and sweetness without the need to use lots of herbs. Well, in my opinion, any fishes can be used and I will leave it for readers to decide.



Servings: About 3-4 adult servings


  • 4 ikan kembong or ikan selar
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste or assam mixed with 6 tablespoons of water and extract juices
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Pinches of salt

Rempah or spice mix ingredients

  • 2 small onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of chilli powder (or 3-4 fresh chilli)
  • 1 tablespoon of belachan or shrimp paste
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass
  • 2 small turmeric roots (or 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder)
  • 2 small tomatoes (optional)

Optional ingredients – blended to rempah above

  • 1/2 bunga ketan or laksa flower
  • Some laksa leaves or daum kesom



PicMonkey Collage1

  • Put all the rempah or spice mix ingredients in a blender (except powder form), add adequate water just to cover 1/2 the height of the ingredients, blend until as fine as possible. Alternatively, you can pound these ingredients using traditional mortal and pastel.

  • In a wok, put about 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil, sauté the rempah or spice mix under medium heat until fragrant and until oil starts to separate out from the ingredients.  In this process, you will witness the colour of the rempah darkens and getting drier and drier. It took me about 15 minutes to get what I wanted.

PicMonkey Collage2

  • Mix 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste with 6 tablespoons of water and extract juices. Pour the assam juices into the rempah, stir until well combined. Add the fish and follow by the sugar, bring to boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Off the heat and let the fish rest in the assam gravy for at least 1/2 hour before serving. Timing will depend on type and size of fish, in general 5-10 minutes of simmering should be adequate. It is advisable to prepare this dish in the early afternoon and served for dinner to let the flavour develops for a few hours.



I am unsure if this assam fish of mine do appeal to you but I have to clarify that this type of thick gravy assam fish will not have any vegetables. There is another type of assam fish which is more soupy and with lots of vegetable. That is very sour but this recipe is supposed to be sour and sweet  and it is an enjoyment to have white rice served with this delicious gravy.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.


For more recipes, you can refer to my RECIPE INDEX (updated as at 13 March 2015)  here and you can follow me at PINTEREST or visit the blog’s FACEBOOK PAGE to keep abreast of my future posts. Also follow me at INSTAGRAM or TSU, a new social network for some more personal sharing other than recipes.

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4 thoughts on “Assam Fish (阿叁鱼)

  1. Guai Shu Shu, this is how my mom makes it too! I always thought it is her own twist to the recipe. Now I inherent the recipe. No other asam fish can replace it. Bring back my childhood memories. Thank you. 😊

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