Grandma Lee’s Nonya/Singapore Fish Curry

Fish in a curry sauce with vegetables, using a secret heirloom curry powder mix Shermay inherited from her Grandmother. This is the same recipes and curry mix which Singapore Airlines served for their SG50 promotion.


  • 600 g fish, such as Spanish mackerel (ikan tenggiri)
  • 300 g eggplant (aubergine/brinjal) or okra (ladies’ fingers)
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 10 fresh green chillies
  • 4 shallots (bawang merah)
  • 4 cloves garlic (bawang putih)
  • ½ thumb size knob ginger (halia)
  • 10 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Curry paste

  • 8 Tbsp Nonya fish curry powder
  • 12 Tbsp water

Coconut milk

  • 125 g (¼) grated coconut
  • 450 ml water
  • (makes about 500 ml coconut milk)

Tamarind Juice

  • 1½ rounded Tbsp tamarind (asam) pulp
  • 250 ml water


  1. Rinse then cut the fish into pieces.
  2. If eggplant is used, cut it into cubes or thick slices then soak in water (to prevent discolouring). If okra is used, trim the stem then use them whole or sliced.
  3. Cut the tomato into quarters.
  4. Slit the fresh green chillies lengthwise then deseed, if preferred.
  5. Peel then slice the shallots, garlic and ginger.
  6. Mix the curry powder and water into a paste.
  7. Prepare the coconut milk.
  8. Prepare the tamarind juice.


  1. Heat a wok over a high flame until it smokes. Add the oil.
  2. Reduce to a lower flame then stir-fry the garlic.
  3. When the garlic is half-cooked, add the shallots.
  4. When the shallots are half-cooked, add the ginger.
  5. Stir-fry until it is light golden brown, then add 3 tbsp coconut milk and the curry paste.
  6. Simmer for 3 min, stirring constantly and adding another 3 tbsp coconut milk.
  7. Add the remaining coconut milk, tamarind water, sugar and salt.
  8. Bring to the boil. Add the fish and vegetables.
  9. Simmer for about 12-15 min over a low flame.


  • It is best to let it simmer uncovered, makes it less likely that the gravy will split (the oil separates and the gravy becomes grainy). It is easier to monitor the doneness of the meat and desired thickness of the gravy.
  • As it cooks, the sauce will thicken which means it there is a likelihood it will burn. Give it a thorough but careful stir at the bottom.
  • It is best to keep the remaining curry powder in the freezer and airtight, to retain the flavour and colour.

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