Asam Pedas Ikan Recipe

Asam Pedas Ikan is a popular Malay dish that combines two big flavour profiles into one ridiculously good dish! Think Spicy and Sour, but done by Malaysia instead of Thailand!

Asam Pedas Ikan is commonplace in many hawker centres in Singapore, or even Malay households. I always thought of this dish as the Malaysian answer to the fiery Thai Tom Yam. It has pretty much all the basics of a Thai Tom Yam, but is done differently, with the addition of tamarind which translates to Asam.

The Fish

I have used Nile PreCuts here. Generally, I do not buy fish from the fishmonger in the wet market. There’s nothing upper-lipped about this; it’s simply because I am not well-versed in wagering with fishmongers for what I want. With clearly written prices at the chicken or even mutton stalls, I can easily buy what I want. But fish and seafood tends to be a dance between the agreement of demand and supply. The same cuts of fish can sometimes be more expensive than others, depending on what’s available at the wholesale market. 

There are some varieties of fish you can place your bets on, those that are more frequently available such as red snapper and pomfret – the price for these are quite stable. However, raw fish can freeze wonderfully, and I am very thankful for it. I pick up the Nile PreCut fish whenever I’m in the supermarket, at $8.60 per 450g of fish. For this recipe, I have used all of the 450g. 

The Rempah

The Rempah, or spice paste, is usually the base for most Malay and Peranakan dishes. Every dish calls for a unique blend of root ingredients to form the base of the dish; this is then turned into rempah or spice paste which is sauteed in hot oil. As with all rempah, this can and will spit at you when poured into the hot oil. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why Peranakan and Malay ladies get so much respect for being quite the matriarchs – they face this with bravery. I, being the regular mortal with an insatiable appetite, possesses no such courage so I scream and jump and persistently stir (gently) through all this drama. The stove will also become a mess once you’re doing with this step, but this dish is totally worth it and this is also why we have Cif anti-grease kitchen spray. 

Asam Pedas Ikan Recipe

Recipe by Krishy MalCourse: MainCuisine: MalaysianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



Asam Pedas Ikan is a popular Malay dish that combines two big flavour profiles into one ridiculously good dish! Think Spicy and Sour, but done by Malaysia instead of Thailand!

You’ll need;

  • ¼ Cup Vegetable Oil (I used Sunflower)

  • 1-inch Galangal, sliced into fat circles

  • 1 Stalk Lemongrass, bruised

  • 300ml Water

  • 1 ½ Tbsp Thick Tamarind Paste (see notes)

  • 450g Nile Pre Cut White Fish

  • 4 Stalks Laksa Leaves

  • 1 Tsp Turmeric

  • 1 Tsp Sugar

  • 1 Tsp Salt (or, to taste)

  • For the Rempah

  • 2 Candlenuts

  • 15 Dried Chillies, rehydrated in hot water for 7 to 10 mins

  • 1 Large Red Onion, peeled and cut into quarters

  • 4 Shallots, peeled and cut into halves

  • 4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

  • 250ml Water

You’ll need to;

  • Remove the leaves from the stalks of the laksa leaves. Discard the stalks and keep the leaves aside. You can add the stalks too if you like, I prefer using the leaves alone. Mix the tamarind paste with the water and set aside.

  • Drain the dried red chillies. Make the rempah by placing all the necessary ingredients into a blender and grinding them to a smooth, fiery-red paste. Set aside.

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the rempah, chopped galangal and bruised lemongrass. This will sputter and spit at you like mad, do not be alarmed; you got this! Keep stirring the rempah in the hot oil and try not to cough too much. Eventually, the rempah will settle down and start to cook, its colour becoming darker as it cooks. Cook this for approximately 8 minutes.

  • Give the water a good stir as the tamarind tends to settle. Pour this mixture into the rempah and mix thoroughly. To this, add the turmeric and salt and mix well. Allow this mixture to come to a boil, about 2 minutes.

  • Add the fish when this happens, one fillet at a time. Add the sugar and half the laksa leaves. Stir to mix, lower the heat slightly and cover with a lid. Leave it for around 3 minutes, as this fish cooks pretty fast.

  • Remove the lid and check to see if the fish is done. If it isn’t, then cook for a further 2 minutes. If the white flesh is opaque all the way through, off the heat and add the remaining laksa leaves. Give it a good stir and serve right away, or warm.


  • If you would like to have this spicier, add 2 to 3 fresh chilli padi into the rempah when you’re grinding it. This will really take the dish up a notch – don’t say I didn’t warn you!
  • This makes a rather thick gravy. Add more water if you prefer something soup-like.
  • If you don’t have tamarind paste, dissolve a golf-ball size of tamarind pulp in the 300ml of water. Then, strain and set aside.

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