Coconut Tamarind Fish

The thought of coconut tamarind fish conjures up images of a deliciously tangy and sweet Southeast Asian dish served on a warm tropical evening. The soft aroma of lightly toasted spices mixed with rich coconut milk and sweet tangy tamarind says it all..

I have never been to Asia (yet; I need to strongly stress that; yet) but I do have the good enough fortune of living in a pacific rim city. With that, I can procure ingredients to send my palate on a little vacation on occasion. This is one of those dishes that takes me to a faraway, wonderful place; albeit a place I’ve yet to see in person.

Coconut tamarind fish is one of those dishes that I encountered shortly after moving to sed pacific rim city and had my mind expanded to the vast world of food. I was first awed by its color and fragrance; then by the rich, delicate flavours. I had never heard of tamarind before that, so it was like walking through a door into a different world.

Over the years, I had tried to replicate it and something had always been lacking. The version I’m sharing with you now is the end result of years of trial and error. In truth it was the breaking down of the tamarind paste….

With the exception of tamarind, pretty much every ingredient in this recipe is fairly common in any market worth its salt. Come to think of it, tamarind isn’t really all that hard to find either. For the uninitiated, it’s a wonderfully sticky, tangy and fibrous fruit similar to dates in its structure. One of the other joys of tamarind is it lives for literally years in the back of your fridge. I honestly don’t remember when I purchased my current stock, but it refuses to go bad.

Coconut Tamarind Fish

Coconut Tamarind Fish

White fish poached in a tangy coconut broth
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 3 people
Calories 150 kcal


  • small sauce pan, large frying pan


  • 3 filets white fish (I used snapper and it worked great) by weight, approx. 1.5lbs
  • 1 cup tamarind paste or sauce
  • 2 cups stock vegetable, chicken or fish will work
  • 1 14oz coconut milk
  • 12 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbsp olive or peanut oil
  • 1 whole green onion sliced; greens separated from whites
  • 1 whole thai chili minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger root minced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce


Making the tamarind broth:

  • In a small frying pan, bring the tamarind and stock to a boil; add the cardamom pods and simmer at medium heat, stirring to break down the pulpy paste down. This should take about 10-15 minutes.

While that's happening…..

  • Heat up the large frying pan and dry toast all the dry spices until they darken slightly, then add the oil, ginger, chili and the white part of the green onion. Saute it all for about a minute….
  • Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and the tamarind broth and pull the heat down to a medium simmer. Gently place the fish in the broth. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes and gently turn it over to simmer another 4-5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, serve in a rimmed bowl with a generous helping of the sauce. Garnish with the green ends of the green onion you sliced up and maybe a lime slice…



This can be served over rice or noodles; there is lots of rich, brothy sauce. 
I used snapper in the attached video; it worked out well. Other white fish that’d be good for this are halibut or sea bass.
Keyword coconut, dairy free, fish, gluten free, tamarind

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