Fish stew with turmeric and lemongrass recipe

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This dish is typically cooked with fish heads in Indonesia, as shown in the photo, but is equally delicious with whole fish or fillets.


  • 1½ lbs (750 g) snapper, tuna or sea bream fillets
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, tender inner part of bottom third only, bruised
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2red finger-length chilies, sliced
  • 2 green onions (scallions), cut into lengths Crispy Fried Shallots Spice Paste
  • 1½ in (4 cm) fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 in (5 cm) ginger, sliced
  • 2-3 red finger-length chilies, deseeded
  • 4-6 shallots, peeled
  • 4-6 shallots, peeled
How to Make It
  1. If using whole fish, scale, gut and clean the fish, then make several shallow diagonal slits on each side.
  2. Make the Spice Paste by grinding all the ingredients to a smooth paste in a mortar or blender, adding a little water if necessary to keep the mixture turning.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat and stir-fry the Spice Paste for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the water, salt, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, and bring to a boil. Add the fish, reduce the heat to medium and return to a boil, then simmer uncovered until the fish is cooked, 7 to 10 minutes. Adjust the taste with more salt or water as desired and remove from the heat.
  4. Transfer to a serving platter and serve hot with steamed rice, garnished with sliced chili, green onions and Crispy Fried Shallots.

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