• This sand whiting jungle curry is powered by loads of chilli. (Sharyn Cairns)Source: Sharyn Cairns

If sand whiting is difficult to source, you may use a similar white fish, like snapper, instead. Food Safari Water






Skill level

Average: 3.1 (42 votes)


  • 8 apple eggplants, quartered
  • 2 bunches choy sum, cut into 10 cm lengths
  • 500 g pea eggplants
  • 1 snake gourd, peeled and roll cut
  • 500 g sugar snap peas, top and tailed
  • 500 g okra, halved 
  • 100 g oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
  • 100 g enoki mushrooms
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped into 3 cm lengths
  • 1 bunch coriander (roots reserved for curry paste), leaves and stalks coarsely chopped
  • handful cinnamon basil, leaves picked
  • handful sawtooth coriander, chopped into 3 cm lengths
  • ½ bunch spring onions, chopped into 3 cm lengths
  • 1 bunch betel leaves, leaves picked and torn
  • ½ bunch mint, leaves picked
  • 100 ml fish sauce
  • 100 ml Braggs all-purpose seasoning or soy sauce
  • 1.5 kg whole sand whiting, butterflied 
  • 50 g toasted glutinous rice powder (see note) 
  • Steamed sticky rice or jasmine rice, to serve


Curry paste

  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 large red shallots, unpeeled
  • 12 dried long red chillies
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander roots (leaves and stems reserved for the curry) 
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 x 95 g jars anchovies, finely chopped

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.


For the curry paste, preheat a chargrill. Chargrill the whole garlic bulb and the shallots in their skins until charred and soft. Remove from the heat and when cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skins. Thread the dried chillies onto a long skewer and chargrill until the skins darken slightly and become crunchy. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop.

Pound the lemongrass to a fine paste in a mortar and pestle. Add the onions, garlic and chillies and continue pounding until smooth. Add the coriander roots and pound again. Add the shrimp paste and anchovies and pound once more until all the ingredients are well amalgamated and semi-smooth.

Pour 3 litres water into a 4 litre capacity saucepan and bring to the boil. When it is at a slow, rolling boil, add stir in the curry paste and return to the boil. Add the apple eggplant and cook for 1 minute before adding the rest of the vegetables except the mushrooms. Cover with a lid and return to the boil for another minute. Add the soft herbs, including the reserved coriander roots and season with fish sauce and Braggs seasoning. Place the butterflied fish on top, spoon over some of the liquid and add the toasted rice powder. Poach the fish gently for 3 minutes or until just cooked. Serve immediately with steamed sticky rice or jasmine rice.

• For the toasted glutinous rice powder, toast glutinous rice in a dry frying pan over low heat until golden, then cool and pound in a mortar and pestle into a fine powder.


Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Rachel Lane. Creative concept by Belinda So.

Maeve O'Meara is back in Food Safari Water starting 8pm, Wednesday 1 August on SBS and then you can catch-up on all episodes via SBS On Demand. Visit the program page for recipes, videos and more.