How to Cook Fish with Tom Yum Sauce

I always avoided Tom Yum (or Tom Yam) whenever I was back in Malaysia for a visit because in my mind, eating Thai food in Malaysia was akin to ordering pizza in a Chinese restaurant. Apparently my assumption was wrong since Malaysian Tom Yum is quite different from the Thai variety. How, exactly? I wasn’t sure; my Malaysian friends couldn’t explain it beyond that it tasted “better”.

I couldn’t even extract a recipe from them since they all made their Tom Yum soup from mass-produced made-in-Malaysia Tom Yum paste.

When I stumbled upon a Fish with Tom Yum Sauce recipe in a Malaysian cookbook, I was suitably excited to try it, until I realised the steps for making Tom Yum sauce involved buying a jar of said paste.

This tom yum paste recipe is thus made from a combination of googling (seems the ones posted by Malaysians are few and far between and bear no noticeable difference to the Thai version) and what I could improvise based on ingredient availability and my personal flavour preferences.


Tom Yum Paste


1 ½ brown onions, peeled and quartered
8 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup minced lemongrass
3-inch knob of ginger
1 Tbsp galangal powder
4 kaffir lime leaves
½ cup chilli paste (recipe here >>
1 cup tamarind concentrate
6 Tbsps palm sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsps chicken powder
3 Tbsps belacan powder
⅔ cup oil


Blend onion, garlic, ginger and kaffir lime leaves.
Combine with chilli paste, galangal powder and belacan powder, and mix well.
Fry in non-stick wok until most of the excess moisture has evaporated. Add oil and saute until oil separates.
Add all other ingredients and fry to a semi-dry consistency. Remove from heat and store in fridge for up to 6 weeks or in freezer for up to 6 months.

Fish with Tom Yum Sauce


1kg fish (eg. barramundi, tilapia or silver perch)
1 Tbsp minced lemongrass
3 kaffir lime leaves
3 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
250ml water
2 Tbsps tapioca starch
Oil for frying

3 Tbsps tom yum paste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsps fish sauce
3 Tbsps sugar
½ Tbsp tapioca starch mixed with 1 Tbsp water


Drench fish (or fish fillets) with tapioca starch.
Heat oil to 180C and fry fish until crispy. Remove fish and set aside.
Remove all but 1 Tbsp oil. Add lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and bird’s eye chillies and saute until aromatic.
Add tom yum paste, lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar and water. Simmer and adjust seasoning if required.
Add tapioca starch and water mixture to thicken sauce if needed.
Pour sauce over fish and serve.



Rode Mic

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