The ruffie or tommy ruff is also known as an Australian herring (in Western Australia, at least). It actually belongs to a group of Australasian fish known as Australian salmons. Substitute with spanish mackerel or bonito – in other words, a high oil fish.






Skill level

Average: 4.1 (11 votes)



  • 20 g shrimp paste
  • 10 g dried large red chillies
  • 100 ml hot water (for soaking chillies)
  • 10 cm piece galangal
  • 3 cm piece turmeric
  • 3 candlenuts
  • 12 red shallots or onions
  • peanut oil, for cooking


  • 200 g seedless tamarind pulp
  • 1.5 litres hot water (for soaking tamarind)
  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 1½  tsp sea salt
  • 800 g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 500 g tommy ruff fish fillets (you can also use Spanish mackerel or bonito)
  • 1 bunch kangkung (water spinach)
  • 10 makrut lime leaves
  • steamed rice

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.


Soaking time 10 minutes

Wrap shrimp paste in foil and roast in hot oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Soak dried chillies in water for 10 minutes. Take out chillies, chop and reserve water. Blend chillies, galangal, turmeric and candlenuts to a paste (for about 5 minutes), adding chilli water if paste too dry.

Peel and chop red shallots. Add to paste and blend until just combined. Fry in peanut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat until fragrant.

Soak tamarind pulp in water for 10 minutes. Break it up and add, with water, to the cooked paste. Add lemongrass stalks, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil then allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through conical sieve and discard solids.

Place broth back into saucepan and add chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Cut out backbone from each tommy ruff fillet and cut the fillet into four pieces. Chop the kangkung and lime leaves and drop, with fish, into boiling broth. Cook for 1–2 minutes until fish is ready.

Serve in bowls with steamed rice.