Gerang Asam (Spicy & Sour Fish Curry): Malacca Nyonya Cuisine


Nyonya Ikan Asam Pedas quite often appears on my weeknight dinner (thanks to my mama’s frozen curry paste). I know I still owe you readers the recipe.. coming soon 🙂 I got intrigued to try a similar Nyonya dish – Gerang Asam  (Spicy & Sour Fish Curry), also a popular Malacca Nyonya dish. This recipe is from “Nyonya Kitchen”, the cookbook by a Baba Nyonya descendant, who is none other than Chef Florence Tan. She has been teaching & promoting Nyonya cuisine for 50 years.

Baba and Nyonya are descendants of a group of unique Chinese in the Straits Settlements, Malaya (now part of Malaysia), particularly in the state of Malacca. They refer to themselves as “Baba” because of their culture, namely through intermarriages between communities of Chinese and Malay. Over the years, many of the Baba Nyonya have also moved to Penang and Singapore.

The influence of Malay cuisine give birth to ‘Nyonya’ dishes using Malay spices, dishes such as Chicken Kapitan – a dry chicken curry; Inchi Kabin – Nyonya Fried Chicken. There is however difference in taste & recipe for the Nyonya dishes from Malacca and dishes from Penang (that I grew up eating).

Usually I would be lazy and blend the paste. This time, I pounded with all my might using my grandma’s pestle and mortar (exactly how the Babas used to make the paste). Using mama’s tip, I double the paste and keep half frozen. Homemade frozen curry paste (packed for 2 pax serving each) is my saviour on busy weekdays. Just thaw the paste, cook with protein/veggie and you can have a curry dish under 30 minutes.

Even though there is a slight difference in ingredients for Gerang Asam & Asam Pedas (another spicy sour fish curry), the 2 curries gives 2 very distinct taste, and both are equally delicious! If you want to know what is the difference, you’ll have to give both of them a try! Best served with a plate of hot rice, I guarantee you will go back for 2nds and 3rds.

Nyonya Asam Gerang

I am submitting this dish to:
Malaysian Food Fest , Melaka Month hosted by Cindy of yummylittlecooks
Merdeka Open House : Uniquely Malaysia hosted by Babe in the City – KL
Muhibbah Malaysia Monday hosted by Shaz of TestWithSkewer

Other Nyonya Malacca recipes:

4.5 from 4 reviews
Gerang Asam (Spicy & Sour Fish Curry)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Delicious Spicy & Sour Fish Curry that will gets you going back for 2nds and 3rds
Recipe type: Main dish
Cuisine: Nyonya
Serves: 8
  • 175ml Cooking Oil
  • 3 cups Tamarind Juice (750 ml water + 75 gm tamarind pulp)
  • 900g Mackerel - sliced into 11/2 inch pieces
  • 2 Kaffir Lime Leaves (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon Sugar
  • 2½ teaspoon Salt
  • 20 young Lady Fingers / Okra
Finely Ground Paste (with pestle & mortar or food processor)
  1. Heat the cooking oil and fry finely ground paste until fragrant.
  2. Add the tamarind juice and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Increase the heat and add fish, kaffir lime leaves, sugar and salt. Cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Add lady's fingers and cooked for another 5 minutes until the fish is done and lady's fingers are tender.
Finely Ground Paste
  1. If using pestle & mortar, add the ingredients bit by bit and pound until it become fine paste. Might take more than 15 minutes.
  2. If using food processor, add all the ingredients and grind until it become fine paste.
  3. If using blender, add all the ingredients and the oil from the main ingredient list to help it grind (because blender needs liquid to blend). Then you do not need more oil when cooking the paste.


  1. This is my first time cooking such dish. And I was rather ignorant through out the whole process. I have followed your instructions word by word. So I’ve learned that while blending the paste, I need to add some water, it was almost impossible to blend. It was not stated in your instructions. Secondly, adding the lemongrass in the blender was not a great idea, the lemongrass is too coast to blend till fine. I have checked on other sites and your picture, noticed that I just need to add them in stalks to the paste after frying it. As according to your instructions, it is part of the ingredients for the paste.
    Overall, the recipe is rather delicious. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Susan. I mistakenly assumed that people cooking this recipe would be familiar with making curry paste. I have revised the instruction to make it clearer. Thank you for your feedback. About the lemongrass, it is possible to grind it until fine, might need more grinding time depending on the power (wattage) of the equipment you use.

  2. I add fish curry powder with your ingredients and opt out the fried chillies and use curry leaves instead lime leaves. I don’t have enough shallots so I add one onion. Taste as good. Please advice

  3. Can I add curry leave and more garlic and onion and opt out the lime leave? I also fried the batang season with salt pepper.

  4. I tried your recipe last week, I use half of a large fish head. It was delicious. Just pair it with rice and it was perfect! Btw, I cut the chili by half.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I would love to re post this entry on my own website will that be okay

  6. I’m not familiar with this dish but it looks good based upon the ingredients!

  7. Love it! This is a favourite of ours!
    Thanks for submitting the post to MMM 🙂

  8. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Jokes aside.

  9. That’s one of my favourite nyonya dishes. I have never done that myself. My mouth drools looking at the photo. Sooooo delish!! 😉
    food-4tots recently posted..Peanut Satay SauceMy Profile

    • Thanks food-4tots! This curry is quite easy, just needs to get all the paste ingredients. Hope you get to try out this dish but then it might not be suitable for toddlers, right?

  10. Nice one Shannon! This dish always make me eat more rice than necessary hahaha. Thank you for participating in Merdeka Open House 2012!

    • Thanks Pick San. You are right, I too end up eating a lot of rice with delicious curry 🙂
      Thanks for hosting Merdeka Open House. Looking forward to the next one!

  11. Fish asam pedas is one of my family’s fav dish! This gerang asam makes me mouthwatering!!! I can have rice more and more! :)))
    Love2cook Malaysia recently posted..Bean Sprouts with Tofu…& Ashika’s Hairdo 🙂My Profile

    • Hope you can try out gerang asam too, just as delicious as asam pedas. you are right, i too always end up eating more and more rice with this type of curry

  12. Amazing colours, Shannon! Not only it looks fabulous, but from the recipe I deduce that it tastes wonderful too. I have heard so much about nyonya recipes… thank you so much for this detailed explanation and for the inspiring recipe.
    Sissi recently posted..Hot Peach SauceMy Profile

    • Thank you Sissi! I’m surprised you have heard about nyonya recipes, it’s not very well known other than south east asia. Nyonya dishes are very delicious. Hope you get to try out this curry recipe.

  13. Looks so yummy, could eat lots of rice with added belacan, yum!
    Esther recently posted..Chocolate and Irish Cream Frozen YogurtMy Profile

  14. OMG! This is such a mouthwatering dish! How I wish I can have this for lunch with some rice would be heavenly! Yummilicious & DROOLING!
    Kit recently posted..Rose Whoopie Pie with Marshmallow IcingMy Profile

  15. For sure using the pestle will give the paste extra flavor. I often hear from others too (and I agree!) that the stone gives it some flavor. I ll save it to my recipe box, cause I need to try that out. Is there anything I can use instead those kafir lime leaves and the Kandle nuts?

    • yes, pounding with the stone does gives it extra flavour. and the pounding also gives out more juice and intensifies the flavours, i think 🙂 after I google about candlenuts, it seems the pounded candlenut gives out oil and creates a creamier texture. Suggested substitute is cashew or macadamia nuts. i’m not sure what’s the best substitute for kaffir lime leaves, they do have quite a distinct flavour. You can try lime zest or omit them the leaves.

  16. I am salivating looking at your gerang assam fish, and here I am eating instant noodles! Yummy!
    Jeannie recently posted..Red Velvet Whoopie Pies ~ Bake Along # 31My Profile

  17. Ooo…I love this dish. I have not been cooking this for quite some times.

  18. I like that you tumbuk all your spices and chilli with a pestle and mortar… I do the same too when I’m making chilli paste. Your fish looks really good.
    Baby Sumo recently posted..I baked: Carrot cupcakes with lime mascarpone cream frostingMy Profile

    • thanks yen! all the tumbuk tumbuk is quite therapeutic – releasing stress.. salute you for making the chili paste that way. me only when I’m in the mood 🙂

  19. Holy Mary, mother of Jesus!!! This looks absolutely stunning… Salivating plus-plus all over. My next trip to KL, better we have pot luck and we bring something of our own – bet anytime a trillion zillion times better than what they serve at the restaurants.
    suituapui recently posted..This is good…My Profile

    • Oh My Gosh! Arthur you shocked me when I read your first sentence, I thought what happened?? hehe. yes yes always prefer potluck anytime, especially with food bloggers, it’s gonna be a gazillion times more fantastic! so when’s your next trip? 😀

  20. Looks delish! Definitely will try this 🙂

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