Tok Umi’s Express Fish Curry

Tok Umi’s fish curry holds a special place in my heart. For the first 14 years of my life, her curry has been my one true comfort. Her curry just has the magic of turning your bad day into a good one in just one bite. Maybe its the love and care I was tasting or maybe Tok Umi was just a good cook but either way, without fail, a pot of fish curry would be boiling away in the kitchen whenever I need to be comforted.

I’ve always been fascinated with the way Tok Umi prepared her fish curry. To see her adding in one ingredient at a time, patiently waiting the curry to boil. It was her way of showing her dedication and love to us, her family. I still remembered the last two weeks Tok Umi was with us. It was as if she knew she’s going to leave us forever. Three days before she fell into a stroke induced-coma, she made two large pots of fish curry that we laughingly joked about. Two weeks later, her curry kept us strong, reminding us that she maybe gone from us but her love, dedication and comfort was there to ferry us through the tough times, coping with her lost.

Before I get too misty-eyed about the past, I decided to pay a tribute to Tok Umi and all the grandmas and grandpas that have lightened up our lives with their amazing presence, long-lasting legacy and of course, their sweet memories. In lieu of that, I am sharing Tok Umi’s express fish curry recipe that doesn’t require any coconut milk or whole spices. All you need is some time and fresh fish.


  • 6 small-sized bawal or 6 pieces of fish cutlets, washed with salt and tamarind paste
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 small packets of Baba’s fish curry powder
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, lightly smashed
  • 3 green chillies, cut in the middle
  • 3 small tomatoes, cut into 4 wedges
  • 6 shallots, sliced
  • 6 ladyfingers
  • 2 stalks of curry leaves
  • ½ cup of tamarind water or 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste


1. In a bowl, mix the fish curry powder with 2 cups of water. Make sure the paste is not too thin. Add in the sliced garlic and one stalk of curry leaves. Mix well.

2. In a pot, heat 3 tablespoons of oil on medium high flame. add in the sliced shallots, half of the sliced onions and the remaining curry leaves. Saute till the onions and shallots are soft and slightly caramelised. After that, pour in the curry paste mix.

3. Add in water till ¾ of the pot is filled. Cover the pot and let the broth simmer for 10-15 minutes. If the flame is too high, reduce it a little.

4. Once the oil separated and the broth is boiling, add in the tamarind water paste and mix well. Make sure you add it little by little. You don’t want a sour curry. Let the broth simmer for 1-2 minutes.

5. Add in the fish, sliced ginger and lemongrass. Cover the pot for 15-20 minutes..

6. When the fish is half-cooked, add in the ladyfingers, the remaining sliced onions and green chillies. Season with salt and sugar. Taste and adjust accordingly. Done!

Done in 30 Minutes!

I hope you enjoy making my Tok Umi’s fish curry. It has been in our family for the past 4 generations and I have not known anyone that fail to fall in love with her fish curry. If my sharing of my family recipe motivates you to share your favourite family recipe and the memories or experience behind it, feel free to share it with me and Butterkicap. We don’t want their legacy to die off, right?

To do that, you can email us at or DM us at our Instagram and Facebook accounts. We’d love to hear your stories and share it with the world. After all, it’s their love and memories we want to keep alive.

Azrene Jasmine

A true blue Penangite, Azrene Jasmine favourite thing to do is, well, eating. Though currently in a love/hate relationship with the weighing scale, she truly believes that every woman should choose a hunk of juicy steak over a bowl of salad on the first date because steaks are awesome and what man can resist a woman with a healthy appetite?

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