Rich and spicy, this fish in coconut gravy might look like fish curry but it isn’t. It has no curry powder although turmeric, one of the spices that make up curry powder, is an ingredient and that is what’s responsible for the bright yellow hue. Any white fleshy fish can be used. I suggest tilapia, dory, river cobbler, snapper (maya-maya) or grouper (lapu-lapu). The fillets may be cooked whole or cut into smaller portions.
Cooking time is less than 30 minutes… but let’s clarify that along with a few other points.
Cooking time depends on the size and thickness of the fish fillets.
Tamarind paste is a substitute for asam gelugor (dried garcinia), a souring agent I am not familiar with. Tamarind paste is available in jars in the Asian section of bigger supermarkets.
Adding oil to the spices facilitates processing. The motor of the blender might burn if you try to process dry ingredients without adding any liquid. The original recipe says to sauté the process ingredients in cooking oil, I mixed them together in the blender and cooked them together.
After adding the coconut milk, do not allow the sauce to reach boiling point. Coconut milk will curdle fast and that will result in a lumpy gravy.
This dish is twice as good after allowing to sit for a few hours.
Adapted from a recipe in Periplus Mini Cookbooks’ Malaysian Favorites.
Ikan Moolie (Fish in Coconut Gravy)
- Cut off the roots of the lemongrass. Measure about an inch from the root end, use this and discard the rest. Slice thinly the part that you’re using.
- Peel the onions and roughly chop.
- Cut the chilis into small pieces.
- Place the chopped onions, lemongrass and chilis in the blender, pour in the oil and process until smooth.
- Pour the paste into a frying pan. Cook over medium heat until the semi solids start to separate from the oil.
- Mix together the coconut milk, turmeric and tamarind paste. Pour the mixture slowly into the frying pan. Season with fish sauce. Add the fish and simmer until the fish is cooked through.
- Pour in the coconut cream, stir until the gravy thickens a bit then transfer to a serving bowl or platter and serve at once.