Assam Pedas Fish Recipe
January 15th, 2007 72 Comments

Assam Pedas Fish Recipe

Assam Pedas Fish (Pomfret)

Assam Pedas, or literally “sour spicy,” is a classic Malaysian dish. Ask any home cooks in Malaysia–Malay, Chinese, or Indian–and you are bound to get various recipes for Assam Pedas. Everyone has their own interpretation for this favorite dish and there are endless adaptations; suffice it to say, it’s sour, fiery hot, and tastes extraordinarily satisfying

Assam Pedas Fish (Pomfret)

When I made my sambal for nasi lemak last weekend, I made a point to prepare some extra spice paste for this Assam Pedas dish. While traditional Assam Pedas calls for ikan tenggiri (Spanish mackerel) or ikan pari (stingray), I used pomfret instead. (In the United States, even in California, it’s almost impossible to find fish commonly found in Malaysia.) I love pomfret and it’s a good substitute for Assam Pedas.

Much like nasi lemak, if you haven’t tried Assam Pedas, it’s very hard to describe just how wonderful this is. I hope my pictures and recipe do it justice.

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72 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Danielle says:

    There is definitely something funny going on here. I know a saw a post from you earlier about a soup with lotus root and dried dates – I am sure of this, because it caused me to pick up some dried honey dates when I was out for dim sum earlier today.

    I was in my way back to thank you for the inspiration (and to tell you that reading your blog is awfully dangerous for me, always making me buy new ingredients and try new things), when I found that the post had disappeared and been replaced with this one.

    Ah well. This post looks great, too. Especially since I know where to find spanish mackerel and stingray around here.

  2. Stefanie says:

    This literally made my mouth water! Looks so much like my mom’s cooking. Great job!

  3. simcooks says:

    This looks like the fish head curry dish I ate yesterday at Prima Taste Restaurant! They used salmon fish head. It was damn shiok. *tastebuds frolicking*

    By the way, I made lotus root soup after your post. Wah… very very sweet. I must make it again with honey dates of course!

    For what other types of soups can you use honey dates?

  4. lucia says:

    i love this dish because of its combination of hot/spicy and sour. fish seems to be a favourite of many people. you know, at the chinese course dinner, the fish dish (no matter how it is prepared) is always not enough!

  5. BuddingCook says:

    i love okras. :) this looks delicious. i can just taste the tamarind from your pictures. It reminds me of my mom’s home cooking.

  6. tigerfish says:

    I like Assam anything…coz it’s sour. This assam fish head, I love too. I can just scoop and scoop the gravy and soak all the steaming plain rice with the gravy….oh my gravy!
    Usual servings of rice x 3, when I see and have this dish! Yum Yum!

  7. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Danielle – My RSS feeds are not reliable…I republished everything. If you subscribe to my feeds, please update it to atom.xml. By the way, trying new things are great; I look forward to reading your posts. :)

    Stefanie – exactly. This is my mother’s recipe. Hers is so much better than mine.

    Lucia – yeah, I love the Chinese 8-course banquet. And yes, you are correct, the fish is always good.

    Simcooks – yes, those honey dates are very sweet. You can use one (if you boil your soup for a long time), or two if you serve it faster. Other than Lotus Root Soup, you can also use it in water cress soup (a tip from my Hong Kong friend!)

    Buddingcook – oh no, I am reminding everyone of their mom.

    Tigerfish – Ric x 3 sounds about right…the gravy is damn shiokalicios with plain white rice.

  8. Keropok Man says:

    I love the ladies fingers! Or Okra. I can just taste the asam pedas from your delicious looking photo!!!

    I realize something, the few of you all from US, even the veg names I used have changed! I am saying cilantro instead of coriander. okra instead of ladies finger. oh no! my brains confused! haha…

  9. Tummythoz says:

    Aiyo, over here usually use black pomfret to cook curry, right? White ones very expensive and people wil say it is very ‘sayang’ (means kind of like a waste) to cover its sweet taste with the strong aroma of curry and asam. But those pix, arrgghhh torturous-lor when can see but cannot taste!

    • Peter Kong says:

      Black pomfret has a distinctive aroma and the flesh is coarser compared to white pomfret. Love black pomfret for cooking curries with ladies fingers.

      White pomfret is best served steamed to savor its fine texture but Bee has to make do with what she can get in the US.

  10. babe_kl says:

    gosh i’m salivating now… you know the kind when u smell sour dishes hahaha

  11. Shilpa says:

    Wow, me too, drooling all over my keyboard! RM, I had the impression that the fish is usually fried before being put into the assam pedas gravy. Or is that a different dish altogether?

    • Peter Kong says:

      Some cooks fry the fish 1st for the simple reason that the flesh will not fall off easily when you reheat the curry or overcook.

  12. Claude-Olivier says:


    Everytime I surf on you blog, I discover a new beautiful recipe !!!! It looks great, the picture is nice with all these colors!!! I should try once ;-)

    Have a nice day

  13. Audrey Cooks says:

    Aiyo! sometimes I secretly wish I live next to you… ya know sometimes when the cooking bug dissapears :D

  14. fatboybakes says:

    you mean you can get pomfret in irvine? pomfret assam nice what, i wouldnt even have thought of it as a substitute per se. spanish mackerel is tenggiri is it? actually, in fact, i think my favourite assam fish WOULD be pomfret.

    audrey cooks, long time no see leh. how u been? wah, have to meet in america hor.

  15. toniXe says:

    We just had assam pedas ( in noodles) 3 weeks ago in PJ compliments of d Chef BSG ( aka Pg food King).

    Its time v set up a final countdown (lovey dovey & delicious one) to combine the tastes and flavors of Pg at a single shot !

    Audrey Cooks plse take note…..

  16. Pesky says:

    Asam fish, my favorite. Sometimes I would buy some kepala ikan or here in Perth, Aussie, they called it fish cheek to make asam fish. Yummy…. The fish cheeks is quite cheap as only the Asian likes to eat it. Its usually from ikan merah, red snapper….

  17. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Keropok – Ladies Fingers / Okras are the best. I love them too. I know what you mean; sometimes I am still confused even though I have been in the US for over 10 years!

    Tummythoz – yes, but I don’t like Black Pomfret. Here the pomfret very cheap…I got mine for 1/2 lb for only $2.00, not bad huh?

    Babe_KL – I know what you mean…like suddenly your saliva gland got very active and your mouth watering. LOL!!!!

    Shilpa – Oh no, another one drooling, LOL. As I said, there are many different variations of Assam Pedas, mine is my mother’s version (she doesn’t fry the fish).

    Claude – yes you should try this and I want to see it on your website. :)

    Audrey – Good idea…then we can play masak-masak together, ala Penang style. You cook one day I cook one day…deal?

    FBB – pomfret in assam pedas is good, and yes, spanish mackerel is tenggiri.

    Tonixe – I thought you are also the Chef BSG? No? I am confused with all your nicknames??

    Pesky – correct, the fish head especially red snapper is super shiokalicious. Good choice!

  18. Audrey Cooks says:

    FBB, yeh I disappeared for a while but now I’m back!

    Tonixe, okay will go marketing tomorrow and hopefully u will see a virtual dish by end of this week!

    BY, I still secretly wish I stay next door to u.

  19. kl_gal says:

    Looks really delicious..the perfect meal for cold days, like this one. I can almost taste the asam..sigh

  20. leonard says:

    awesome pic and I’m sure it taste great…thumbs up for PENANG food and cooking style..

    u should think about writing a Rasa Malaysia book : )

  21. teckiee says:

    ….*shy* I usually just buy instant curry mix and add assam jawa to make my asam pedas with “pak chong” fish.

  22. x-jb girl says:

    alamak! I was just thinking about assam pedas yesterday so rang a malaysian friend for the recipe but she rattles on abit of this and a bit of that …typical!

    terima kaseh. I’ll cook it at my next malaysian potluck.

  23. Michael says:

    Thanks for the nice post!

  24. <a href="">Hydrocodone</a> says:

    n1ezSp The best blog you have!

  25. jefferyseow says:

    This is not asam pedas. This is gulai tumis or kari tumis.

    Gulai tumis or kari tumis is so called because you tumis (saute) the spices.

    In asam pedas, there is no oil and no frying at all. Penang asam laksa is an example of asam pedas and so is kong asam (another fish soup flavoured strongly with shallots and lemongrass).

    Hope this clears up the confusion for many people!!

    I’ve been surfing looking for a good asam pedas recipe and I keep finding ones for gulai tumis instead!!

    • Andy says:


      You are right, Mom do asam pedas and kong a sam also but this pic look more in asam tumis. saya orang penang you also lo?

    • syima says:

      hye, in johor or melaka, we still call this ASAM PEDAS.

    • Mnie says:

      well..i come from melaka…and we make the best asam pedas!! and my family has the best recipe..and its ‘THE’ original recipe..

      everything is the same, except for the curry part.
      we don’t add curry powder in it. (it has other name if u put curry powder in it if im not mistaken..but ive forgotten what its called)

  26. Nightentity says:

    Alamak!! Jeffrey Assam pedas has always had it’s spice base fried first, I think you may have got confuggled with a few cultural differences in recipes.Lol I’ve been cooking Assam pedas for over 40 years and that is how it was taught to me, and is generally how most other people cook it too. The taste is a lot different if you do not fry the spice/onion/garlic base first.
    Other than Daun Kesum have you tried Daun kunyit or Bunga Kantan in the assam recipe? as they go very well and so does a combination of two herbs such as D kunyit and D. kesum. I am very glad that I have stumbled onto this site, as it has all my favourite recipes plus a true cooks interpretation. A marvellous place that is now firmly entrenched in my favourites section of my browser. Thank you xxx

    • Mnie says:

      yep..daun kantan and daun kesum…
      it makes asam pedas ALOT better…Tastier..
      just awesome…damn..i have asam pedas craving for days now..
      too bad i live in germany and its really difficult for me to travel to go to asia market to find ingredients..

      i really miss my grandmas asam pedas.. its the best!!

  27. Nightentity says:

    OOps forgot to add that I also love the Kuah assam pedas the following morning, reheated and eaten by dipping very fresh bread into it and munching with the occasional slurp mmmmmmmmmmm

  28. Adeline &amp; Choo says:

    I have been reading your blog for months. You did an excellent job in terms of the recipes and the photographs. You might want to think about publishing a magazine online for yourself and people can buy it online too. Check out

  29. Laila says:

    I love my assam pedas fish to have fish roe but thts impossible in the US so il just stick to your assam pedas fish recipe. ;)

  30. Dlina Bonvang says:

    its 0740 here. i can’t sleep due to my morning sickness and i am craving for food that is impossible to get in here. In europe normally its difficult to get a fresh fish like this but i really craving for it, i don’t know what to do and all the igredients some i can get but not all.. So sad and depressed. how i wish my mom is here and cook for me. Honestly i hate my own cooking. I just don’t know why…

  31. Anonymous says:

    your assam pedas really looks good. i really can’t wait to try your recipe. I am living in irvine ca, and i am new to this place. Do you mind if i were to ask, where can i get vietnamese mint from?

  32. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Anonymous, you can find the Vietnamese mint leaves or daun kesum at little Saigon in Westmister. All the Vietnamese food stores have them.

  33. pankaj says:

    while surfing the net, i came across this site…. do u know Assam is a state in the North-East of India? That’s why the name brought me curiosity. The recipe n pix look tempting n I am definitely going to try it out, definitely with Pomfret as I am presently living in Goa. Keep it up with more such recipes.

  34. Shizuka says:

    This looks tantalising…and i love okras and sour spicy food. Now living away from home, I really miss all the assam-assam variety of dishes…Thanks for sharing this recipe. I can’t wait to try my hands on cooking it this weekend ! Thankfully I can find pomfret, okras and spices in Bamgkok :)

  35. Mona says:

    Love the recipes and the photos of the dishes are AWESOME!! Fit for a cookbook!

    Thank you so much for sharing – keep up the great work :)

  36. emmawy says:

    once again, another dish i desperately want to try! (: thanks so much for all these recipes. i’ve been missing good assam dishes for awhile now! (:

    was wondering, based on the quantities above, what’s the servings like? (:

    thanks once again!! your site is a regular on my internet history.

  37. Valerie Yong says:

    Thanks for the recipe!
    Can’t find daun kesum here, cant it be subtituted or do without?
    also, silly question…..i have a small packet of mild curry powder will that do too?


  38. Sam says:

    i don’t get it. I tried jut making the kuah because I am craving for the soup only. So I made it. BUT there is something missing! The spice is there, the sour is there… but there’s something else. (I put the spice space and tamarind juice together) and salt , sugar. I’m so sad

  39. Pingback:Food I grow up with………. « The Belly rules The Mind

  40. Hey Rasa Malaysia,

    I am just wondering, if there is a difference between using the food processor or a blender? When I used a blender to blend the chillies etc, I need to add in water, and somehow the taste just doesn’t come out right. Its not as intense as what I expect it to be. Any advice?



  41. saychinso says:

    hi, editor of rasa malaysia,
    i enjoyed your browser very much. i saw your recipe of assam pedas for fish. i wonder how to get the fish curry powder. i visit san gabriel 99 ranch often and i have not seen it. i saw assan laksa package from penang awhile back and now recently i can’t find them . maybe you can help. keep up the good work . will look out for interesting events from your browser. thanks . say.

  42. Leah says:

    I have bookmarked so many pages of yours now! Can’t get enough of all these tasty, easy Malaysian recipes! So:
    okra = ladyfinger
    tamarind = asam

    I had NO IDEA. No wonder I couldn’t find the right products here LOL. You should do a post about all the Western names for Asian products.

  43. jasmine says:

    do i have to use fish curry powder? can the generic kind you get off the shelf at the supermarket?

    • jasmine says:

      sorry, typo – i meant can i use the generic kind!

    • Peter Kong says:

      I use curry powders in packets I buy from supermarkets.

      Pour the amount you need in a bowl and add in some water to make a thick paste. If you are using chilli powder also, you can put the required amount with the curry powder then add water to mix. Leave and set aside for an hour or so for the spices to absorb the water.

      Whatever curry you are cooking, after frying the ingredients with shallots combined until fragrant and slightly browning, add the curry/chilli paste into and fry until the oil separates. This give better flavor in your cooking. Then continue adding the other ingredients in your recipe.

      Let us know how it turns out for you.

  44. Pingback:Tropical Bloom « Come On Closer

  45. Hi, by any chance do you know if belacan is a healthy thing to eat? It surely makes dishes yummy but I am just wondering how healthy it is.

  46. Pingback:Off to Malaysia Lah. | The Kiwi Travel Writer

  47. ElizabethCee says:

    Hi Bee, I am not supposed to eat shellfish, or mabe I did as this was our favourite dish when we visited KL. Could you please suggest a substitute for the shrimp paste? Maybe some fish sauce?

  48. Fadzil says:

    Good looks tasty will share this in my blog :)
    Only the special, grill, bake and steam fish recipes of the world with fun fish facts

  49. panlasangpinoyrecipes says:

    wow nice blog…and all recipes

  50. nic says:

    Hello! Thanks for sharing the recipe. May I ask if frozen fish can be used? And if so, how to rid the fishy smell? Was told to soak in vinegar water.

  51. carmen says:

    i am in columbus,ohio and have yet to see pomfret being sold in supermarkets.
    failing which,what other “mat salleh”fish can i use? :)

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