Thai Red Fish Curry

Fish is something only very rarely eaten in our house. One reason for this is because it tends to be relatively expensive. However, one must remember that there are always cheap ways of eating most things (see my advice section). For instance, if one is looking for a fillet of succulent white fish, why not use coley instead of cod? There is always a reasonably priced alternative to that which is most in vogue. Trout is much cheaper than salmon and one must never forget the varieties that most don’t like the look of, such as gurnard. Remember, in the world of fish, it doesn’t have to look good to taste good; use the misplaced shallowness of other’s to your advantage.

Coley, my whitefish of choice, is particularly good for recipes such as this, since it has a robust, meaty body which doesn’t fall apart too easily – assuming it hasn’t been overcooked. This fish tends to come filleted with the skin left on, though one should remove the skin for this particular recipe. To do this take the fillet from its tail-end and slide a sharp, thin knife between skin and flesh, pull the skin and slide the blade back and forth at a slightly downward angle. If you buy your fish from a fishmonger and can’t be bothered to learn, they should prepare it for you. Though, it is always a good thing to learn a new skill.

This is a really delightful and delicious meal, particularly for this time of the year; not only is it packed full of the fragrant flavour you’d expect from a Thai dish, it is light and refreshing – perfect for this time of the year. One needn’t follow my recipe exactly; the amount of chilli used, for instance, is completely up to you. I don’t like things too hot, so there were only two small red chillies in the dish you can see before you.

The Olympics has begun here in Britain and we just won our first medal – silver in the women’s road race. I do hope you’re all enjoying the proceedings and everything seems to be going very smoothly at the moment. Good luck to your respective nations and I hope you enjoyed the history lesson of an opening ceremony.

Thai Red Fish Curry

Serves 3-4


• 300g whitefish, I used coley

• A knob of ginger, peeled

• 2 cloves of garlic

• 1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped

• The juice of half a lime

• 2-3 fresh red chillies

• 1 tbsp tomato puree

• 1 onion, very finely chopped

• Oil

• 2 good slugs of fish sauce

• 400ml coconut milk (not reduced fat)

• 100ml water

• A generous pinch of salt

• Coriander to serve


1. To make the curry paste blend together the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, lime juice, chillies, tomato puree and a little oil. Heat a little more oil in a large saucepan and begin to fry the onions. After 5 minutes add the paste and cook for a further 10 minutes. Tip in the coconut milk and water and continue to cook to allow the flavours to infuse.

2. Season the sauce to taste before adding the fish in large, skinless chunks. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish is completely done. At this point one can serve the dish, though if the sauce is a little thin one may opt to remove the fish from the sauce and turn the heat up for a little while. Ensure it is served piping hot, sticky rice and coriander is optional.

Cost: Though fish can be relatively expensive this particular fillet wasn’t too pricey – a trifling £2. As such, when one considers the inexpensive nature of the other ingredients, the cost of the entire dish isn’t very much at all. Indeed, this recipe is enough for four when served with rice and should set one back a mere £3.20!


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88 comments on “Thai Red Fish Curry

  1. annashortcakes
    July 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    What type of pepper did you use? It might be hard for me to find over here “across the pond”. What would be a potential substitute? I can’t wait to try this!!!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      A red one?! We don’t do different varieties of chillies here in mid west Wales 😀

  2. Terri at Time To Be Inspired
    July 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Looks delicious!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      Thanks! It was SO delicious. One of my best recipes.

  3. Cori
    July 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    This look delicious! Will definitely have to try this :o)

  4. Hayley (Oat Couture)
    July 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Ok so do you fancy popping round with a bowl!? I am poorly, sick and dying and need something hot and spicy to snap me out of it! Honestly this looks fantastic! As soon as I can drag myself into the kitchen again, this will be getting made! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Haha – I think popping round would be more difficult than it sounds… Sorry to hear that you’re poorly :(. It was very nice 🙂

  5. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial
    July 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    We don’t cook nearly enough fish – especially when it’s so quick. Looks delicious, Nick! Great that Britain has her first medal, hopefully that will unlock the floodgates! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Me neither, it such a beautiful thing to eat too – so healthy. Yes, we’ve had a few more in the past two days – 6 golds!

  6. linda
    July 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Looks delicious, will be trying that soon.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks. You really should, it was rather yummy.

  7. PolaM
    July 29, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    I’ve said it before, but I have to learn the art of cooking curry! This curry looks fantastic!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Oh my, you really do! It’s not difficult either.

  8. Lorna
    July 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Lovely: I am always pleased to find a new recipe for non-cod white fish!

  9. flowercityfoodie
    July 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I love Thai curries and fish, so this is a winner!

  10. Eat Healthy Be Happy
    July 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    This sounds great. I love reading your recipes like this. It’s not a range of flavors that I’m familiar with, so your posts inspire me to give them a try. Your chicken biryani was very good, by the way. 🙂

    I myself wasn’t able to watch the opening ceremonies since I don’t have cable, but I heard from a couple of people that the 7/7 tribute was cut out of the American broadcast and they instead showed an interview that Ryan Seacrest did with Michael Phelps (The swimmer that took 8 gold medals at the last summer Olympics), which is unacceptable in my opinion. I read a couple of articles as well about the American commentators being condescending toward some of the other countries which is also pretty unacceptable.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks. I’m glad you think so! Perhaps it’s unacceptable, but I don’t think it matters so much. I think it may have been a coincidence – it’s more annoying that they wouldn’t show it all the way through.

  11. ceciliag
    July 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Oh we love a good curry here. I don’t buy much fish either mainly because i am adverse to buying fish when i am hundreds and hundreds of miles for the sea.. just not seem right somehow.. but there you are, i will be in NZ in december and then i will be buying fish, straight from the boats! c

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      Don’t we all, Cecilia? :D. That sounds awesome 😀

  12. Karen
    July 30, 2012 at 12:03 am

    Your Thai curry with fish sounds terrific. At our market, we can buy what they call chowder cod. It is chunks that are taken off to make perfect filets. It is always much cheaper than a whole filet of fish.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks, Karen! That’s a really good idea! Perhaps I should ask, though coley is really nice anyway.

  13. theintrepidbaker
    July 30, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Oh wow!!! I’m guessing you could put other kinds of seafood in as well? Would you put any veg like mushroom or spinach in?

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Mushroom would work nicely, but spinach might hold it back and turn a little wilty and horrible. You could try it though!

  14. Lisa
    July 30, 2012 at 1:37 am

    Yum! This is a must-try, I love using cocomilk!

  15. allythebell
    July 30, 2012 at 2:50 am

    This looks fabulously tasty. I wish the Pie ate fish because we have cheap cod in abundance here …

  16. Peter - The Roaming GastroGnome
    July 30, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Damn that look good. We ordered Thai take-out tonight for Olympic watching. Your curry sauce looks awesome. Gold medal!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      Oh tut tut, you shouldn’t eat takeaway – I hate not knowing what’s gone into it and they can be really bad for you. Thanks, Peter!

  17. Shumaila
    July 30, 2012 at 4:49 am

    I looooove Thai food. Not much of a fish fan but I would just leave the fish and have the curry!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      Fair enough. You could easily do it with any meat/vegetable. Thanks, Shumaila!

  18. Gretchen without Grain
    July 30, 2012 at 5:41 am

    Oh my mouth started to water as soon as I saw the photo! The flavors sound so good. We favor many types of fish, and I have been on a ginger and coconut kick lately… this fits in perfectly!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Haha – that’s my aim! It does indeed. Thanks, Gretchen! Here’s your reply!

  19. Juls
    July 30, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Oh I love coley! I have a massive side of it waiting to be eaten and I think I found the recipe to do it justice! I am really enjoying your photos since you’ve got your new camera and stylish zeal! Not that you didn’t have stylish zeal before…

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      Amazing! I shall do another fish recipe very soon. I really want to try gurnard. Thanks, Juls. I’m loving the camera!

  20. ournewlifeinthecountry
    July 30, 2012 at 8:32 am

    The picture looks lovely, but why is this tagged vegetarian?

    Neither fish nor fish stock are suitable for vegetarians!

    Sue xx

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      Thanks! Actually, quite a lot of vegetarians, quite inexplicably, find it all right to eat fish… I don’t understand either.

  21. thecompletecookbook
    July 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Awesome meal!
    🙂 Mandy

  22. sybaritica
    July 30, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Terrific recipe and beautifully photographed. I am bookmarking this!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Thanks! Please do and I’m sure you’ll like it if you give it a go .

  23. Karista
    July 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Beautiful curry! We’ve had a little cold snap and this dish will be perfect. Thanks Frugal. 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks! IT’s good for cold and warm weather, trust me.

  24. Cara
    July 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Of course you point out the history lesson in the opening of the Olympics. What’s history anyway? They don’t teach us that here in the States. But what they do teach us is how to spot a sexy meal and let me just say that this curry is absolutely breath-taking, Nick! You are continually inspiring me at my try at homemade Thai food.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Haha – it’s quite hard to explain… I’m surprised they don’t teach it… Are you sure? I’m glad you like my food!

  25. stirandstitch
    July 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    well done with that drool-triggering photo!
    over here, whitefish is actually a fresh water species unto its own, and a perfect vehicle for big flavours as it is really rather bland. i shall be making this soon, thanks for the recipe!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks! Yes, I’ve heard of whitefish – I did call it white fish to be fair 😀 I hope you like it.

      • stirandstitch
        August 4, 2012 at 6:48 pm

        this was fantastic with our whitefish white fish 🙂
        and i deem it absolutely worthy made with light coconut milk if that’s all you have on hand, though i imagine it would be even more sublime with the real thing.

        • frugalfeeding
          August 7, 2012 at 9:06 pm

          Awesome :D. Light coconut milk is just coconut milk watered down… so I’ll disagree. If anything get the proper stuff and add water – it’ll save you some money.

          • stirandstitch
            August 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm

            you’re right, you’re right, i know you’re right…but then i’ll have a half can of coconut milk in the fridge, and it smells really awful when it goes off!

          • frugalfeeding
            August 10, 2012 at 8:58 pm

            The obvious answer is to use it before it goes off 😀

  26. bitsandbreadcrumbs
    July 31, 2012 at 3:47 am

    There are few things I love more than a Thai red curry. This one with the fish looks terrific. I had a green salmon curry out today, but maybe I will try my hand at making a red curry at home.

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      I know, they are always so yum. You should, but don’t use salmon, it is a beautiful fish with its own wonderful taste that I don’t believe should be put in a curry.

  27. myfangalicious
    July 31, 2012 at 7:40 am

    your photography is always so amazing

  28. Kimby
    July 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I made fish curry for the first time last year using fresh bass (caught in our lake) and the flavor bowled me over. Great point about using “other” fish in recipes — you never know until you try! Also liked the dusting of coriander you suggested. Mmmmm…..

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:30 pm

      That sounds lovely, bass is such a beautiful fish. Coriander is a must for me 🙂

  29. kristina
    August 1, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Ugly fish taste the same as pretty fish! Especially when filleted and cooked into such a gorgeous soup. I can’t wait to try this, though I think I might add in some vegetables too to make it a complete meal…it’s summer so we can be a bit lazy, right? 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      Exactly! It was very filling! Definitely a full meal in my opinion… just follow it up with an apple 😀

  30. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen
    August 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    My kids are crazy about Thai food and we go out for it often. I know they would love the flavors in this one!! As would I:)

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:08 pm

      I’m sure they’d like it, Smidge… you should make it 😀

  31. sunburstkissesrowena
    August 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Swai and pollock! Back in college (and now), tilapia and salmon were usually ridiculously priced, and I’d buy swai and pollock instead. Don’t know if they’re readily available in Britain, but here in the States I can usually get a 2lbs for $3-4 instead of 3 times as much for other fish!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      This is even cheaper than pollock :D. Pollock is nice too though. I’ve never heard of swai though…

  32. Cressida Gaukroger
    August 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    This looks so delicious – I’m about to be off fish for a month, but it will be one of the first things I make when I am back to eating seafood!

  33. Smedette
    August 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I enjoyed most of the Opening Ceremony. Please don’t take that as an insult – our coverage here in the States absolutely sucks and the presenters would not stop talking. I was in London last month and was able to see the prep.

    This looks delicious!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      That’s such a shame – it’s not an insult for us, more for you :D. Thanks.

  34. spree
    August 3, 2012 at 12:19 am

    I hardly know a fish you’re speaking of here, Nick, but I love your curry all the same! 🙂

    • frugalfeeding
      August 3, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Haha! Thanks, Spree. I’ll make sure I bring some more unknown fish to the table!

  35. Alexia @ NamasteYoga
    August 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    fish curry. awww RED fish curry… mhhhhhh… looks so delicious! there is more than just curry paste to a good curry! well done!

    • frugalfeeding
      August 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

      It was SO nice. One of my favourite recipes I think. Thanks!

  36. theyearofwonderfulweekends
    August 6, 2012 at 2:30 am

    delicious recipe and stunning photos 🙂

  37. Doggy's Style
    September 30, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I just tried the recipe, was delicious!
    I’ll be talking about it tomorrow.
    I’ll try the chicken biryani later on.

  38. jenn
    March 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I made this today for lunch and I just have to say “Amazing ” instead of tomate paste I blended fresh tomato also instead of water I used chicken stock …Wow.

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