Gulai ikan derived from the word gulai as coconut curry and ikan as fish in Bahasa Indonesia. Gulai is originated in Sumatra Island, Indonesia and it’s an adaptation of Indian curry influence. Gulai is is often described as an Indonesian type of curry. Gulai ikan is a popular dish across all Indonesian archipelago, Every province got their signature, basically from the species of fish they have got on supply. The gulai broth commonly have a thick consistency with yellowish color because of the addition of turmeric. Gulai broth ingredients consist of rich spices such as turmeric, coriander, black pepper, galangal, ginger, chilli pepper, shallot, garlic, fennel seed, lemongrass, cinnamon and caraway, ground into paste and cooked in coconut milk with the main ingredients. The other popular popular gulai in Palembang, South Sumatra is Gulai Tempoyak or Fish Curry with Fermented Durian Paste. Other meat types gulai is Gulai Kambing (Lamb or Goat Curry) and Beef Gulai, Kalio (Dry Beef Gulai) or Malbi Ayam ( Sweet Chicken Curry/Gulai).
Resep gulai ikan or fish curry recipe contains a lot of spices, that’s why i use my Homemade Garam Masala Spice Mixture that contains black & white peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, black & white cumin seeds, white & green cardamom pods, caraway, corriander, star anise, long peppercorns, nutmeg, fennel seeds, dried bird eye chilies, fenugreek seeds. Making fish gulai is a little bit tricky, remember that you should put the fish AFTER the coconut curry broth is throughly cooked and you should keep stirring the coconut milk mixture before it’s got boiled. This tricks could prevent the coconut milk separated from the pice and the fish got overcooked. To make a pleasant tangy sensation on fish gulai, you can use lome juice, asam kandis or asam gelugur.
I’m using a ikan semah or ikan batak for making this gulai ikan. This fish had a plenty names around the world, Ikan Kelah or Ikan Empurau (Malaysia), Mahseer Fish (India). Even in Indonesia, we”ve got several name for this fish from the genera Tor, Neolissochilus, and Naziritor in the family Cyprinidae (carps). This fish known as Ikan semah (South Sumatra), Ikan Sapan (Borneo), Ikan dewa/Ikan Kancra Bodas/Ikan Kencara (West Java), Ikan Tambra/ Tombro (Central Java). In bataknese descent (North Sumatra), we used to called this fish as ikan batak, ihan or dekke curong (Toba), or dekke jurung-jurung (Mandailing). This fish is rather expensive and considering as delicacy because they got a firm, succulent and sweet flesh because they are eating not only protein like other smaller fish, crustaceans, insects,and frogs, but also the ripe wild fruits that fall from trees overhead the river. Mahseers or empurau fish dwelling both rivers and lakes, ascending to rapid streams with rocky bottoms for breeding. They are commercially important game fish, as well as highly esteemed food fish. Mahseer or empurau fetch high market price, and are potential candidate species for aquaculture. I’ve read the article about empurau fish crazy price, empurau or mahseer fish tagged 780 US$ for a kilo in Singapore. Fortunately, this empurau fish or ikan semah was sold by a local fishherman in hometown Muara Dua, South Sumatra, for about 12 US$ for a bundle of two empurau fish weighed at 1,3 kilos. This fish is still twiching their mouth and operculum to suck up the water, but when i took it to the water and apply some water pump, unfotunately it’s too weak for them to survive. I guess i’m not that lucky to have this pricey fish in my pond.
There’s a several mith about this fish in Batak descent people, once you spotted the seller of ihan batak or dekke jurrung-jurung, you can’t bargain it no matter how pricey is that fish offerred. This ikan batak is a part of batakness wedding tradition, the female bride family (parboru) bring this fish to the male bride family (paranak) as a symbol of honour, hope and prosperousity. Similiar to Gulai Terubuk or Sayur Besan (Spicy Sugar Cane Blossom or Fiji Asparagus Curry) on Betawi descent people. This ikan batak is being Arsik Ikan khas Batak or Spiced Fish with Torch Ginger and Andaliman (Indonesian Szechuan Peppercorn). This fish even got sacred in some area, This fish called Ikan Gariang on Sungai Janiah, lubuak Larangang (name of the river), West Sumatra, Ikan Kancra Bodas/Ikan Dewa on Cibulan Pond, West Java. All of this fish is protected and resticted to catch and to consume by a local hukum adat or cultural law.
Resep Gulai Ikan or Fish Curry Recipe:
- 1 (about 700 gr) ikan batak or ikan semah, mahseer fish (you can replace with ikan mas/grass carp fish or ikan mujair/tilapia)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves (daun jeruk purut), deveined
- 2 lemongrass (sereh), bruised
- 2 cups coconut milk (santan)
- 2 piece of asam gelulur (you can replace with 2 tbsp lemon juice)
- 3 cups water (air)
- 1 tomato (tomat), diced
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 torch ginger blosom (bunga kecombrang,rias, honje, asam cekala), halved
- salt and pepper to taste
- a pinch of sugar (gula)*optional
Resep Bumbu Gulai or Fish Curry Spice Paste Recipe:
- 12 shallots (bawang merah)
- 6 cloves garlic (bawang putih)
- 6 cayenne pepper (cabe merah)
- 6 or more bird eye chilli (cabe rawit)
- 1 tsp HOMEMADE GARAM MASALA SPICE MIXTURE (bubuk kari)
- 4 cm ginger (jahe)
- 3 cm galagal (lengkuas)
- 4 cm turmeric (kunyit)
- 4 candlenuts (kemiri)
- Heat up the 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottom sauce pan, saute the spice paste with a low heat until the spice is throughly cooked. Visual aspect is the key! the oil is slowly separated and formed in the edge when it throughly cooked.
- Add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, torch ginger blosom, asam gelugur, tomato . Stir another minutes.
- Pour the coconut oil and water, bring to boil.
- Reduce the heat and cook until the coconut milk is throughly cook, keep stirring
- Add the fish and simmer unti the fish is cooked, keep gently pouring the curry broth over and over again to the fish to make it properly cooked anf the spice is properly penetrated to the fish flesh.