• Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 30 minutes
  • Serving For 4 people
  • Difficulty Normal

Recipe Description

There was only half a cup of tempoyak but the smell of durian can be detected on several floors of our building. Such is the potency of the king of fruits.

This is an old recipe from a time when nothing was ever wasted. It made use of durians that had cracked open and could not be sold, or abundant fruits that could not get to the market in time.

Nowadays tempoyak is fermented specially for culinary use because there is such as huge demand for durians that there’s no longer an excess in production. Tempoyak available at the market are now usually quite fresh and are less sour than the older ferments. If you would like higher pungency, you can keep it at room temperature for a few days for the flavour to further develop. It is said that the lactic acid bacteria present will inhibit the growth of harmful decomposing bacteria and preserve the flesh of the durian.

The most popular fish for this dish is the patin, also known as pangasius, river catfish, or shark catfish. But you can use any fatty fish that can stand up to the acid of tempoyak.

The most unusual ingredient is the old cucumber, which is usually boiled down into a soup. In this case, its brief cooking gives it a bite that contrasts the soft flesh of the fish.

You will need to adjust the salt and sugar seasoning based on how much acid the tempoyak has developed. Also, to retain its fragrance, do not cook the bunga kantan but sprinkle it in just before serving. Hope you enjoy.

Recipe Ingredient

  • 1kg ikan patin, cut into 3 cm thick
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste, mix with 1 cup water
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, pounded
  • 3 turmeric leaves, julienne
  • 1/2 cup tempoyak
  • 1 old cucumber, cut into cubes
  • 3 stalks daun kesum
  • 1 stalk bunga kantan
  • salt and sugar to taste
  • Wet spice blend
  • 7 bird eye chillies
  • 5 red chillies
  • 10g fresh turmeric
  • 1in old ginger, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Blend wet spices with 1/2 cup water.
  2. In a stock pot and boil 1 litre water.
  3. Add durian paste and wet spice blend, lemongrass and turmeric leaves.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Wash and clean the fish. Then marinate with tamarind juice for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  6. Drain the fish from marinade and add to pot.
  7. Add cucumber and daun kesum.
  8. Cover and simmer over slow heat for another 10 minutes.
  9. Remove fish and reduce liquid into a light gravy.
  10. Return fish to heat and add bunga kantan.
  11. Season with salt and sugar, and serve immediately.

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2 thoughts on “Patin tempoyak (River catfish with durian paste)”

  1. Tom Klempay - February 1, 2021 at 4:39 pm

    your recipe calls for tamarind not the durian you write about..

    • Kuali Cares - February 3, 2021 at 9:09 am

      Hi Tom, yes, although not obvious, the ‘tempoyak’ ingredient used is actually a durian asam made from fermented durian. Commonly found in Malaysia, it is a delicacy paste used in Malay cooking. Happy Cooking!


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