Asian Recipes/ Curry/ Dinner/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Creamy Coconut Indonesian Fish Curry – Kari Ikan

29/03/2021

Creamy coconut, tangy lemongrass and tender white fish in a vibrant yellow curry. Indonesian Fish Curry (Kari Ikan) is delicately spiced and gorgeously aromatic, ready in just 30 minutes.

Indonesian kari ikan next to a bowl of rice.

Why We Love This

A quick curry perfect for a weeknight treat. Blend the spice paste, fry it then add your fish and let it simmer to deliciousness – all within 30 minutes!

The vibrant colours of Kari Ikan’s yellow curry base are perfect to impress guests. If you’re serving a three course meal, whip up an entrée of Indonesian corn fritters, then finish it off with bright green dadar gulung for dessert.

Cooking Indonesian fish curry in a large wok.

What is Indonesian Fish Curry (Kari Ikan)? 

A fragrant Indonesian yellow curry known as kari ikan which literally translates to fish curry. With a creamy coconut and turmeric base, this curry is filled with melt-in-your-mouth fish pieces simmered with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. It’s a quicker curry than some other types, even with cooking the spice paste from scratch. This is because fish doesn’t need as long to cook as other proteins.

Variations of this curry also use fish heads, especially popular in Malaysia and Singapore.

What You’ll Need

All you need is a few fresh herbs and spices, some coconut cream, your favourite white fish and a little time to set it all to a simmer.

Please don’t be overwhelmed by the following list of ingredients, it’s mostly for the spice paste which is blended together in a food processor or blender in one swift step.

  • White Fish – Basa or snapper fillets work best here. If these are unavailable, any mild flavoured white flesh fish goes well. Don’t like fish? Swap for chicken or extra firm tofu instead!
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves – Best fresh for this recipe. You can also find them dried, frozen or in a jar at Asian and local supermarkets. Sub with zest of one lime.
  • Lemongrass – You can find whole and chopped lemongrass at most Asian and local supermarkets. Sub with the zest of one lemon.
  • Chilli – Large chillies have less heat, but full flavour and go perfect in the spice paste. If you don’t like heat, only use 1 or 2 large chillies and omit the small red chillies – these pack the most heat!
  • Lime Juice – You can’t beat a squeeze of fresh lime juice! Feel free to substitute with tamarind paste if you can find it at your local Asian supermarket.
  • Coconut Cream – This is thicker and creamier than coconut, with a higher fat content. If you can’t track it in your area, sub with coconut milk.
All the ingredients laid out for kari ikan.

How to make creamy coconut fish curry:

  1. For the spice paste: Note: It’s a big list but it’s super easy to blend everything within a minute! Pop everything on the spice paste list (garlic, large red chillies, small shallots, tomato, fish sauce, tumeric powder, ginger, chopped lemongrass, palm sugar, ground coriander, tamarind paste, black pepper, nutmeg and optional: small red chillies) into a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse for 30 seconds to 1 minute to blend into a fragrant paste.
  3. For the curry: Heat the vegetable oil in a large work over a medium heat. Throw in the lemongrass stalk and kaffir lime leaves and stir fry for 1 minute.
  1. Then add the spice paste and give it a good stir, frying until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
  2. Add your white fish pieces, coating in the paste and frying for a further minute.
  3. Next, pour in your water and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and changes from translucent to white. Finally, turn down the heat to simmer on a medium heat and add in the coconut cream. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  4. Serve with your favourite fluffy white rice for the best curry experience and garnish with fried shallots.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Spice Paste Sticking? – If your spice paste is getting stuck in the blender, pour in a small dash of oil or water to help it along. You can also grind the spices with a mortar and pestle if you need.
  • Stir Carefully – Fish is fragile once cooked, so take care when stirring the curry so it doesn’t flake and break apart.
  • Adjust the Heat – Feel free to adjust how much chilli you use in the spice paste. You can always have extra sliced fresh chilli on hand to garnish for extra heat after serving.
  • Coconut Cream – When using canned coconut cream shake or stir the can first – it may have separated from standing.
  • Add Vegetables – Greens and vegetables such as spinach, bok choy, broccoli, carrot or pumpkin work well. (Hint: Try this amazing Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry next time!)

FAQs

What’s the best fish to use for fish curry?

White fish works best, soaking up the spices and complementing with their mild flavour. We use and recommend snapper or basa fillets in Australia, however you can also use mackerel, whiting, salmon, flake / gummy shark, blue grenadier / hoki, barramundi or rainbow trout.

Can I freeze fish curry?

Yes, fish curry freezes well. Pop it in an airtight container, and reheat when you’re ready. For best results, freeze leftover rice in a separate container so it doesn’t soak up the sauce.

What other protein can I use instead of fish?

Other seafood works well such as prawns, scallops or lobster, or substitute with chicken, tofu or vegetables if you’re not a fan of fish or seafood.

A bowl of bright yellow Indonesian fish curry with fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.

Need more spice? Try these curries next:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Close up shot of Indonesian fish curry garnished with fried shallots.

Creamy Coconut Indonesian Fish Curry – Kari Ikan

Creamy coconut, tangy lemongrass and tender white fish in a vibrant yellow curry. Indonesian Fish Curry (Kari Ikan) is delicately spiced and gorgeously aromatic, ready in just 30 minutes.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indonesian
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 897kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

Spice Paste (don’t worry, it’s super easy)

Optional:

Instructions

For the Spice Paste

  • Note: It's a big list but it’s super easy to blend everything within a minute! Pop everything on the spice paste list (garlic, large red chillies, small shallots, tomato, fish sauce, tumeric powder, ginger, chopped lemongrass, palm sugar, ground coriander, tamarind paste, black pepper, nutmeg and optional: small red chillies) into a food processor or blender.
  • Pulse for 30 seconds to 1 minute to blend into a fragrant paste.

For the Curry

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok over a medium heat. Throw in the lemongrass stalk and kaffir lime leaves and stir fry for 1 minute. Then add the spice paste and give it a good stir, frying until fragrant (1-2 minutes).
  • Add your white fish pieces, coating in the paste and frying for a further minute.
  • Next, pour in your water and bring to a boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and changes from translucent to white.
  • Finally, turn down the heat to simmer on a medium heat and add in the coconut cream. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  • Serve with your favourite fluffy white rice for the best curry experience and garnish with fried shallots.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Spice Paste Sticking? – If your spice paste is getting stuck in the blender, pour in a small dash of oil or water to help it along. You can also grind the spices with a mortar and pestle if you need.
  • Stir Carefully – Fish is fragile once cooked, so take care when stirring the curry so it doesn’t flake and break apart.
  • Adjust the Heat – Feel free to adjust how much chilli you use in the spice paste. You can always have extra sliced fresh chilli on hand to garnish for extra heat after serving.
  • Coconut Cream – When using canned coconut cream shake or stir the can first – it may have separated from standing.
  • Add Vegetables – Greens and vegetables such as spinach, bok choy, broccoli or carrot work well.

Nutrition

Calories: 897kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 67g | Saturated Fat: 56g | Cholesterol: 100mg | Sodium: 2261mg | Potassium: 1784mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 1420IU | Vitamin C: 155mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 8mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Creamy Coconut Indonesian Fish Curry - Kari Ikan

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26 Comments

  • Reply
    Em
    06/06/2021 at 8:19 pm

    Made this today and really liked it! Reminds me of mum’s kari ikan she cooks whenever I’m back home in Malaysia. Thank you!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/06/2021 at 9:25 am

      Oh amazing Em! Thanks for letting us know. 😀

  • Reply
    Kyle
    25/02/2021 at 3:10 pm

    5 stars
    I made this tonight with sablefish (i.e. black cod) and it was wonderful!! My grocery store only has the small Thai chilis and not the “large red chilis”, so I opted for a tablespoon of fresh harissa paste (different flavor profile, I know). Nonetheless, it made a remarkable meal. Thank you for sharing, I’ll be making it again!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/02/2021 at 4:31 pm

      Oh fantastic Kyle. Glad you could sub with harissa paste – at least that would still give you some heat. Cheers for the feedback! 😀

  • Reply
    Bob
    27/06/2019 at 12:26 am

    This looks great and will try tomorrow. Is the recipe for 4 people. If so, is 400g enough. If i double the mount of fish, should i also double the sauce or i’m good with the original amounts?
    Thanks
    Bob

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      27/06/2019 at 11:58 am

      Hi Bob, thanks for stopping by! If you’re just planning to prepare curry and rice, this recipe is best for about 2 hungry people (recipe card now updated too). In your case, I’d definitely double the fish and sauce to make sure you have plenty for everyone! 🙂

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    22/12/2016 at 12:38 am

    I do love a good curry. This sounds delicious. I usually make curry with chicken. I will have to try it with fish.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/12/2016 at 4:47 pm

      Oooh yep, this curry also works great with chicken (we’ve cooked it a few times now with fish AND chicken!)

  • Reply
    J @ Bless Her Heart Y'all
    21/12/2016 at 10:42 pm

    5 stars
    Mmmmm! I love coconut and lemongrass flavors combined. Such a refreshing combo. I bet it tastes amazing with the curry in there too! Yum!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/12/2016 at 4:46 pm

      Oh I know right? There’s nothing in this world like the flavours and combinations in Asian cuisine.

  • Reply
    Elizabeth
    21/12/2016 at 10:25 pm

    5 stars
    This sounds like an utterly gorgeous recipe! I have some monk fish in my freezer calling out to be made into this.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/12/2016 at 4:46 pm

      Aww thanks Elizabeth, let us know how it goes. 😀

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    21/12/2016 at 9:24 pm

    I just love these stunning flavors and the intense color! So good!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      06/01/2017 at 9:05 am

      Absolutely! You know what they say… we eat with our eyes as much as our stomach!

  • Reply
    Heather @Boston Girl Bakes
    21/12/2016 at 11:40 am

    5 stars
    I hear you on the meal plans..they make my life so much easier! And thanks for the free download 🙂 I think this fish dish is going under Thursday for New and Different 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/12/2016 at 4:45 pm

      You’re very welcome Heather, glad we could help. Hope you enjoy the fish!

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    04/05/2016 at 11:04 pm

    Curries are great and this sounds delicious. Love the aroma of all those wonderful spices.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/05/2016 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks Gloria, there’s nothing like the smell of freshly blended spices is there? Just watch out when they hit the hot oil haha, especially if there’s chilli in it, they pack one fiery kick!

  • Reply
    pooja@poojascookery.com
    04/05/2016 at 11:32 am

    5 stars
    Amazing. I am from Coastal region from India and a fish eater. We cook fish almost everyday. Our curry is little different but this looks amazing. Will try out this time.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/05/2016 at 3:14 pm

      Yum that would be amazing. It’s not common here in Australia to eat fish all that regularly, but we’re aiming to cook with it at least once a week now. Super addicted to fish curry now haha, would love to try yours!

  • Reply
    dixya @food, pleasure, and health
    04/05/2016 at 10:54 am

    i hear you on being busy – life has been just nonstop and im so ready for some downtime desperately…

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/05/2016 at 3:13 pm

      It’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s almost like we need to add ‘Downtime’ as a task on our schedules, otherwise we keep overlooking it!

  • Reply
    Anne Murphy
    04/05/2016 at 7:07 am

    5 stars
    I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who plans meals by Which Vegetable should be used first… LOL

    That curry sounds wonderful. I have to find a reliable source for lemongrass – it’s turning up in recipes more and more, but not in the nearest grocery store. I just need to find out which of the fancier (farther) ones carry it!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/05/2016 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Anne! I feel like lemongrass is one of those ingredients that is growing in popularity so hopefully it won’t be long til it’s easily accessible for you. In the meantime though, if you have any Asian import stores near you definitely try there, and if not maybe online. Surprisingly we just found fresh lemongrass for sale on Amazon.

  • Reply
    Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels
    04/05/2016 at 1:40 am

    5 stars
    Oh my! This curry looks absolutely luscious. I love those flavours and fish in curry gets my vote.

    I do a monthly (or so) large shop for tinned and dry goods like flour, tinned tomatoes, etc and shop for fresh goods through the week as I need them, plus I get a weekly organic fruit & vegetable box delivery. I try and shop for my fresh foods locally from markets, small stores and farm shops etc. My large shop is unfortunately done at the supermarket, with speciality items from online stores and deli’s.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/05/2016 at 3:07 pm

      Thanks Georgina! It’s so different isn’t it? Most people will go for chicken, beef or lamb but fish is absolutely glorious in curry. Your shopping/planning sounds super organised! We love buying organic and trying to support local stores/farmers rather than supermarkets and definitely aim to do so as much as possible.

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