Fried Gurame fish in mild spicy sour gravy

Text and Photography by Loreen Neville
March 1st 2010

This is an Indonesian fish dish a recipe learnt from my super duper house keeper Madam Marwati. The savory slightly sour gravy is made by using a backyard cucumber tree plant from my garden called the Averrhoa bilimbi or balimbing sayur in bahasa Indonesia. There are two terms used in Indonesian of the word balimbing. One is the buah balimbing or star fruit and is eaten ripe as a fruit. While the other one is balimbing sayur or Averrhoa bilimbi use for cooking. This recipes uses Averrhoa bilimbi vegetable.

The green Averrhoa bilimbi is grown in South East Asia and can be found in gardens not only for its vegetable but for the shades it gives. We have about four huge trees giving plenty of shades, colour, and sour balimbing in the garden. When in season, the stewards use the vegetable as pickles and for cooked dishes.

Apart from the Averrhoa bilimbi culinary usages, the entire plant or tree sorrel has been known to have medical benefits. Reduced into a warm paste, the leaves of the bilimbi tree have been used to treat venereal disease, pruritus, mumps, acne, and rheumatic pains. The Indonesians boils the leaves and the concoction is used for boils, diabetes, and fever. The flowers of this plant can also be boiled to help cure coughs and thrush.

This recipe includes the all time Indonesian favourite water fish, the 'Gurame' or Osphronemus gouramy. The gurame takes a longer time to grow than the cat fish and can be cultivated without running water. There are at least two types of these carps cultivated in Indonesia, the Gurame geese or soang and the Gurame Japan. The Soang have broader scales and can weigh up to 8 kg and about 67 cm in length. While the Gurame Japan has smaller scales, weighs about 5 kg and is shorter in length roughly about 45 cm. The Gurame is only sold live in aquariums in most supermarkets or sold live from fish farms or sold live from individual home cultivators.


1 Fresh water Gurame fish
5 Averrhoa bilimbi or balimbing sayur
3 stocks of lemon grass c
Half a ginger
5 lime leaves or daun jeruk
Cooking oil for deep frying and sautéing
Salt for taste
To blend
5 Chillies-remove seeds
5 Garlic gloves
Half a teaspoon sugar
300 g of water


  1. Wash and clean fish. In a medium size wok, heat oil over high heat.
  2. Rub salt into and over the fish
  3. Fry the fish till crispy or golden brown.

Blend in a food processor, 5 Chillies with the remove seeds, 5 garlic gloves skin removed, half a teaspoon sugar and add about 300 g of water. In a heated wok over medium heat, pour two tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat the blended ingredients, lemon grass, lime leaves followed by the averrhoa bilimbi or balimbing sayur. Simmer for about two minutes. Next add water, and leave to simmer over low heat.

When done, place the fried gurame fish in shallow dish and pour the spicy gravy over it. Garnish with raw vegetables and serve hot with white rice

Meal cooked on 20th February 2010


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