GULAI IKAN – FISH CURRY
3 tablespoons oil
2 cups (500 ml) thin coconut milk
2 slices dried tamarind or 1-2 tablespoons tamarind water.
1 lb (500 g) thick fish fillets (salmon, Spanish mackerel, mullet, ling)
½-1 cup (125-250 ml) thick coconut milk
2 tablespoons coriander seed or 1 ½ tablespoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon cumin seed or ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seed or anise
½ teaspoon black peppercorns or 1/3 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6-10 medium-sized dried chilies, soaked in hot water until soft then squeezed dry
1-in (2½-cm) piece turmeric root, peeled and coarsely chopped pr ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 thick slice fresh ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
6 shallots, sliced
If using whole dry spices for the Curry Paste, grind them to a powder in an electric grinder, add the remaining Curry Paste ingredients and grind to a fine paste. Alternatively, grind the garlic and shallots and add 3 tablespoons of commercial Malay fish curry powder (rempab kari ikan). Mix the ground spices or the commercial curry powder, adding as much water as necessary to make a paste.
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the Curry Paste and fry it until it smells fragrant, reducing the heat to prevent it from burning. Add the thin coconut milk and the tamarind and bring to a boil. Add the fish and simmer until it is cooked. Add the thick coconut milk and salt to taste and return to a boil before serving.
In the north, 4 oz (125 g) of okra or a couple of thin purple eggplant are sliced thickly on the diagonal and added. Add them after the Curry Paste has been fried until fragrant, and stir-fry until they are coated with oil and spices before adding the coconut milk. Simmer until the vegetable is nearly cooked and then add the fish.
For a more modern pan-Malaysian touch prepare the following tempering from the Indian-influenced north to add at the end.
3 shallots, sliced
1 cloves garlic, sliced finely lengthwise
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed
½ teaspoon brown mustard seed
10 curry leaves
Heat a little oil in a pan and fry all the ingredients together until the shallots are golden brown. Pour over the curry before serving.