A sweet, salty and spicy fish curry, Assam Nyonya fish is one of the most popular dishes at Junda Khoo's home-style Malaysian restaurant Ho Jiak.






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (36 votes)


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt, sugar and dashi powder, to taste
  • 500 g piece barramundi fillet
  • 6 okra, trimmed
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • handful mint leaves and coriander, to garnish


  • 125 g red onion, chopped
  • 100 g white onion, chopped
  • 125 g long red chillies, chopped
  • 10 g bird’s eye chillies
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, pale end only, chopped
  • 25 g turmeric, chopped
  • 50 g galangal, chopped
  • 100 g bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), chopped
  • 25 g laksa leaf (Vietnamese mint leaves)
  • 125 g chilli giling (dried red chilli paste)
  • 20 g toasted belacan (shrimp paste), see note


  • 10 g chilli powder
  • 15 g ground turmeric
  • 75 g sugar
  • 15 g salt
  • 20 g chicken stock powder
  • 75 ml lime juice
  • 180 g tamarind paste

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. For the paste, place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until a paste forms.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy–based frying pan over high heat. Add the paste, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring regularly for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Add all the seasoning ingredients and stir for another 5 minutes. Add 330 ml water and season to taste with salt, sugar and dashi.
  3. Meanwhile, place the fish on a plate and then into a steamer basket over a wok of simmering water, cover and steam for 6 minutes or until just cooked through.
  4. When the fish is nearly ready, add the sliced tomato and okra to the curry sauce and gently stir through. Ladle most of the sauce into a large serving dish, add the fish, the pour over the remaining sauce. Garnish with mint and coriander and serve immediately.



To toast the belacan, wrap in a small piece of foil and roast in a 180°C oven for 5 minutes or until fragrant.


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Photography by Adam Liaw.