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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tuna Curry ~ Gulai Ikan Tongkol Terengganu - MFF Terengganu #2

Tuna is locally known as ikan tongkol, ikan aya or ikan kayu, depending on which state you are in.
It’s a budget friendly fish and my fish being at almost 1kg before cleaning is sold at RM8/kg.

Gulai ikan tongkol is usually eaten with nasi dagang, or the other way round, whichever way, LOL.
It is different from Kelantan’s version. From what I remember, Kelantan’s version is more yellowish, tasting slightly more “curry like” maybe due to its turmeric content. Whereas Terengganu’s version is more “assam”, as in sour.

Whenever I travel to Kuala Terengganu, I will try my best to have my Nasi Dagang fix at Kak Pah’s located at Pantai Batu Burok. It was where I had my first Nasi Dagang. 7 of us having breakfast with 21 plates on the table. Each person were given 1 plate of rice, 1 plate of fish, 1 plate of pickled vegetables, so, you can do the maths. Whole table filled with plates! It was a funny sight asking around, is this mine, is this yours… LOL. Kak Pah’s rice has this boing boing texture that I find hard to forget. It taste like eating Bario rice. And her gulai ikan tongkol is very nice, spicy and sourish.. perfect pairing with the tacky rice. The sourness raises the appetite and decreases the cloying effect of coconut milk infused sticky rice. I loved it sooo much that I drank all the gravy. When I came back from my trip, I happened to see a Nasi Dagang Terengganu recipe featured in the Star. I quickly cut it out and kept it, but it’s at my mom’s house. I didn’t go home to get it for this blog post.

On my 5th trip to Terengganu, I introduced this dish to my then boyfriend (now husband). Maybe he was tired from the whole East Coast trip and sleeping on foreign beds, so he didn’t think too much of the rice. But when I cooked it this time, only did he really taste the gulai, the rice and gave me good feedback. And my MIL said, “We could’ve made this for Reuben’s birthday the other day. It’s special and nice.”
I don’t want to comment too much on my take on this, but I can say, I can be proud of myself.

All ready for Step #5 onwards

It's a usual practise to buy the ready mixed spice for gulai ikan tongkol, but since it's only easily available in Terengganu, it'll be hard for others to replicate it at home. And I found this recipe suppposedly from a royal cook for the Terengganu Sultanate that uses a ratio of 2:1 of coriander seeds to fennel seeds, so I made my own spice mix with this given ratio.

My gulai also looked very red due to the chilli oil all floating to the top. My dried chillies are rather red and spicy. I like to purchase from once certain shop only because dried chillies bought at other places aren't as intense, colour and flavour wise. It's my fault that my coconut milk released too much oil, but the colour is indeed attractive :)

Terengganu Fish Curry (Gulai Ikan Aya Terengganu)
Sourced with adaptations: Noor Masri
*DIY Spice mix ratio referred from here

750gm-1kg tuna
10gm asam gelugor (or replace with tamarind paste, but use more until the broth taste sourish)
1L water
*2 Tbsp coriander seeds
*1 Tbsp fennel seeds
100gm shallots
2 cloves garlic
15gm dried chilli (15pcs)
20gm galangal
20gm ginger
200ml coconut milk (undiluted)
Salt to taste
2-3 Tbsp palm sugar
4 red birds eye chilli
4 green bird’s eye chilli, lightly pat with side of cleaver
100gm belimbi (belimbing buluh), halved

1. Slice tuna into 1 inch thick pieces. Keep the head. Rinse fish until water runs clear (no more bloody liquids)
2. Boil the water with asam gelugor and put in fish. Let it simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
3. Lightly toast coriander seed and fennel seed in wok and then mill them finely.
4. Mill chilli, shallots, garlic, galangal and ginger together into a paste.
5. Heat wok on medium low heat and put in 4 Tbsp of oil. Cook chilli paste until it smells good. Put in milled spices. Cook until the mixture looks glossy.
6. Put in coconut milk and cook until the mixture comes to a boil (it might ooze some oil).
7. Pour in the fish broth and bring to a boil on high heat. Season salt and palm sugar. Let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.
8. Put in fish pieces and bring back to a boil. Put in chilli and belimbi and turn off the heat.
9. Serve with nasi dagang or plain white rice.

Recipe for nasi dagang, Terengganu style, please refer here

I am submitting this to Malaysian Food Fest, Terengganu Month hosted by Lena of Frozen Wings


  1. sedapnya... saya tak pandai wat lagi gulai ikan tongkok ganu ni.. makan je pandai.. uwaaaa.. meleleh tengok..

  2. I know I gonna like this dish, sour and spicy. It has been years I have not had this belimbing. My mum used to cook something like this. With this delicious dish I can go for another plate of rice.

  3. JaSSNani,
    Tak trai tak tau, mana tau air tangan JaSSNani sedap sampai meletup!

    I think Pasar Larkin could have, u can try getting it from there.

  4. No wonder u r the masterchef! Clap2....

  5. Now i realised Tongkol is actually Tuna fish, I had mistaken it for Tenggiri (because i thought they look quite similar )and bought home to make fish paste last week, was wondering why the fish paste is not bouncy at all. Now i know.....

  6. Ellerinize sağlık. Çok lezzetli görünüyor.


  7. To get a more authentic taste to the gulai, you could further add:
    1) about 1 tbsp of kerisik
    2) 1/2 small pkt of rempah masak (Bunga ros) - usually I get it in KTrg. Not sure if you can get it in other towns.
    3) 3-4 Large green chilli (not chilli padi)- this will immediately bring out the "smell" and taste of kuah nasi dagang once the chilli soften.

    *thumbs up* ... your gulai and nasi dagang looks great!

  8. Hi Wendy, thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I have a complete Nasi Dagang meal to prepare for the family.

  9. Looks very sedap!!! I can "taste" the "assamness" of the dish from just the looks of it! Easy for u to find belimbing over there?

  10. DaphneC,
    Thanks for the suggestion.
    The coriander and cumin is used in place of the ros spice that is hard to get. I always make sure my recipes are easily followed by people from other places.

    quite easy in KK, available each time I got to pasar

  11. Such sweet post, it must be very spicy, but i love it...

  12. AHHHH looks so good wendy! I must give this a go soon. esp great that you posted the recipe for the spice mix instead of readymade ones, because no way I can get the readyamde ones here. yay!

  13. Wendy, love the color of your gulai. That's the way it is supposed to be, we just scoop out the oil later. I love this gulai except for the fish :)

  14. cquek,
    If u like spicy, should be nice for u

    Shu Han,
    Yes, that's the purpose of me not using the prepared spice mix, DIY mix is more global friendly :) Don't say global, even in my state I can't get it. LOL.

    Phong Hong,
    Phew! Is it? Thanks for letting me know then, I thought I sudah fail a bit by making it too oily, LOL.
    NVM, u take the gravy i take the fish, deal?

  15. i also never tasted our local tuna fish. So strange , have been eating the canned tuna for so long and the japanese ones but never tried our fresh tuna:(

  16. lena,
    cos Chinese rarely cook with it. We usually prefer softer fleshed fish.

  17. Hi Wendy

    I tried this recipe plus the nasi dagang last weekend. It was a success!! The curry tastes wonderful with the nasi. The nasi is really a special kind. I'm from Pahang, so I have eaten nasi dagang many times. Have always love it. Now, I know I can cook it too. Thank you so much for the recipes.

    PS. For nasi dagang, I skipped step 4 & 5 and it worked real fine. I even cooked it again the next day to confirm the process and it tasted just like the original Terengganu nasi dagang.

  18. FuSs,
    Thanks for the feedback, I'll definitely skip step 4 and 5 next time.


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