Malaysia: Kat’dah’s Yellow Fish Curry (Masak Lemak Gulai Kiming)


  • 2 kg fresh mackerel (or any other large oily fish)*
  • 200g shallots
  • 8 cm piece of ginger root
  • 8 cm piece of turmeric root (or a rounded dessert spoon of dried turmeric)
  • 4 or 5 pieces of assam kaping (a very sour dried fruit. alternatively use tamarind)
  • cream of 1 coconut or 2 packets of coconut milk and cream
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt to taste
  • tapioca flour to thicken (or cornflour)
  • aginonoto (spicy tapioca powder – optional)
  • 10 small red chillies sliced

* South East Asian mackerel is a bigger and meatier fish than the Atlantic version.


1. Gut, clean and chop the mackerel into portion sized chunks (use the head, too if you can stomach it).

2. Pound or blend the ginger root, turmeric root, whole small red chilli is and shallots into a paste.

3. Add the coconut milk to a pan and bring to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes to reduce.

4. Add the pounded ingredients and 4pieces of assam kaping and bring to the boil.

5. Mix 1 dessert spoon of tapioca flour, or corn flour, with water and add to pan to aid thickening.

6. Add the fish and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring only occasionally to stop sticking. Take care not to break up the fish.

7. Season with 3 teaspoons salt, 4 of sugar and 1 of aginonoto.

8. Add the sliced red chillies and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with herb rice and a warm long bean and chilli salad.