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.

P.S. Don’t like fish sauce? Try our easy Malay/Singaporean chicken curry instead!

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, lemongrass, palm sugar, ground coriander, lime juice or 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.
    6 cloves garlic, 3 large red chillis, 2-3 small shallots, 1 tomato, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp ginger, 2 tsp lemongrass, 2 tsp palm sugar, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp lime juice, ¼ tsp black pepper, 1 pinch nutmeg, 1 – 3 small red chilli

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).
    1 lemongrass stalk, 3 tbsp vegetable oil, 6 Thai makrut / kaffir lime leaves
  • Add your white fish pieces, coating in the paste and frying for a further minute.
    400 g white fish
  • 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.
    1 cup water
  • 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.
    1 cup coconut cream
  • Serve with your favourite fluffy white rice for the best curry experience and garnish with fried shallots.
    white rice, crispy 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

Nutrition Facts
Creamy Coconut Indonesian Fish Curry – Kari Ikan
Amount per Serving
Calories
897
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
67
g
103
%
Saturated Fat
 
56
g
350
%
Cholesterol
 
100
mg
33
%
Sodium
 
2261
mg
98
%
Potassium
 
1784
mg
51
%
Carbohydrates
 
35
g
12
%
Fiber
 
7
g
29
%
Sugar
 
13
g
14
%
Protein
 
50
g
100
%
Vitamin A
 
1420
IU
28
%
Vitamin C
 
155
mg
188
%
Calcium
 
112
mg
11
%
Iron
 
8
mg
44
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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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34 Comments

  • Reply
    Anna
    09/05/2022 at 8:00 pm

    This is so rich in flavour! Might also suggest you try to make another Indonesian food called Rendang, its amazing as well.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      11/05/2022 at 1:31 pm

      Cheers Anna, Rendang is one of our favourites too!

  • Reply
    Supriya Kutty
    02/10/2021 at 11:43 pm

    I am so happy to come across this post of yours. I made this curry for my husband and he really loved it he also appreciated me and this made me feel very happy all credit goes to you.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      05/10/2021 at 5:04 pm

      Ah that’s so awesome, thanks for letting us know! 😀 It really is a great dish to make from scratch, with how simple it is, yet the depth of flavour it brings to the table.

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