Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fish Head Curry and Lemongrass

I have gone AWOL in my blog for a while. It is not that I have nothing to share, but I was thrown out of sync since I started working on my new job as a clinician in the department. I hope to get myself reorganized quickly to the new regiment and adjust my daily routine around it. There are many other things waiting for me to do. The herb garden is high on my job list and has been scheduled as priority for this weekend's chore in the backyard. Thanks to the frequent showers in the last fortnight, the weeds have sprouted as if there is no tomorrow and compete for the limited space to grow in the garden beds. Besides, every gardener knows that this is a common trait among the weeds; they do not huddle together in one place, but spreading afield, each takes up the habitat for which it is best fitted , and so is enabled to survive and multiply in the world of flowers. As I do not use chemical herbicide to eradicate weeds in my garden, I was down on my knees and pulling and digging out the weeds with my hands and a weeder since dawn. I have only managed to finish weeding half of the garden beds and relocated a clump of lemongrass to another location, just before the sun reached its zenith in the sky. I can still recalled planting this fragrant and lemon-scented grass since I came back from Papua New Guinea 12 years ago. Since then it has multiplied and flavoured many of our Nonya and Malay dishes. In the past, we used to resort to the unreliable dried "serai powder" we bought from the Asian stores. These days lemongrass is available in any Chinatown or at any supermarket with an Asian fresh food section. Lemongrass is one of the most essential herbs without which Thai curries, Malaysian laksa and dozen of other dishes of Australia's new Asian cuisine would not be the same. Although it is mainly associated with the cooking of South East Asia, lemongrass makes a delicious herbal tea, and also an effective pest repellent. Just tie the outer leaves in a loop and cook with food to impart lemon scented flavour. Be sure to remove before serving.

Lemongrass Fish head Curry


300g red onion, sliced
20g fresh galangal sliced
40g fresh lemongrass, finely sliced
60g garlic
20g candlenuts
95g ground dried chilli paste
2 tsp belachan (shrimp paste)
1 tbs turmeric
50mls vegetable oil


5 twigs Vietnamese mint (laksa leaves)
125g sugar
20g salt
100mls tamarind juice
1 stalk lemongrass
900mls water
6 okra, diagonally sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium pineapple or 1 can 432g of Pineapple cubes
500g Red Snapper fish head, or 500g any other deep sea fish fillet.


Blend first 8 ingredients to form a fine paste.
In a heavy based pan, heat the vegetable oil and fry the paste until fragrant (approx. 3 -4 minutes).

Add the lemongrass tie in a knot with its leaves, Vietnamese mint and seasonings to the paste, pour in the water and tamarind juice and simmer for 15 minutes.
Increase heat, add the sliced okra,pineapple, cherry tomatoes and fish fillets and cook for a further 3 - 4 minutes.

Remove from heat, pour gently into serving dish, remove the lemongrass and serve immediately


  1. Hi Phil

    I grow my own serai and daun kesom here in California too. They grow like weeds! The serai likes a sunny spot.

    Very often I have to cut and throw away the serai and daun kesom (rau ram). I've tried to give them away but there are no takers!!! So sad.


  2. Hi SD,
    How can we not envious of your California weather that provides such an abundance of "weeds". Hehe.