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Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup

Garang asem is a popular dish in Central and Eastern Java. The spicy and sour soup is super delicious, and I can totally eat a couple bowl of steamed white rice with just the soup. :D You can also use chicken instead of the mackerel and make garang asem ayam (chicken in spicy and sour soup). I think I have covered too many chicken dishes, so I’ll try to use fish and other meat once in a while for variety. Plus, I need to eat more seafood since they are really good for you. ♥

Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup
Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup

This dish is super easy to make, so don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. More than half of those just need to be ground into spice paste, though I admit it might be kinda hard to find some of the ingredients outside of Indonesia :) And with fish, the cooking time is super fast. I would say that even with chicken, the cooking time shouldn’t take that long. If you want to impress, this is one of the dish that looks super hard to make but is actually super easy. ♥

Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup
Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup

Garang Asem Ikan Tenggiri - Spanish Mackerel in Spicy and Sour Soup

5.0 from 1 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 30 mins

Cook Time: 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves: 6

Print Recipe


  • 6 spanish mackerel steak (Indonesian: ikan tenggiri), 1/2 inch thick each, total weight 600-700 gram.
  • juice of 1 lime (Indonesian: jeruk nipis)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 2 bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 3 tomatillos (Indonesian: tomat hijau)
  • 750 ml coconut milk (Indonesian: santan)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • tamarind solution (1 teaspoon tamarind (Indonesian: asam Jawa) + 1 tablespoon water)
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 4 red Thai chilies (Indonesian: cabe rawit merah)
  • 4 red anaheim chilies (Indonesian: cabe besar merah)
  • 8 shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah)
  • 3 cloves garlic (Indonesian: bawang putih)
  • 1 inch kaempferia galangal (Indonesian: kencur)
  • 1 inch turmeric (Indonesian: kunyit)
  • 1/2 inch ginger (Indonesian: jahe)
  • 1/2 inch galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas)


  1. Marinate fish with lime juice and salt, set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a pot and sauté spice paste, bay leaves, and tomatillos until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add coconut milk, mix well, and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the fish, salt, sugar, and tamarind solution. Cook uncover, until the fish is cooked and the sauce is slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Vaughan Thomas Vaughan Thomas says:

    Hi Anita. I think your blog is fantastic. I am a Welshman living in Pangandaran and have been eager for some time to improve my Indonesian cooking. I love your recipe for perkedel tempe, and last night I made bakwan - we call it bala-bala down here. A great success, thank you. Do you have a recipe for tahu isi? Probably my favourite gorengan. Thanks again and keep cooking.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Vaughan, love your blog :) I haven't covered a recipe for tahu isi yet, but I do have one plan in the future. I will let you know once I have it posted. In the meantime, have fun checking out other recipes from the blog. Cheers!

  • Clarissa edgina Clarissa edgina says:

    Hi Anita. I would like to ask ist there another substitute for the kind fish in this recipe? The reason I’m asking is because I’m currently breastfeeding my daughter and would love to eat fish that low in mercury, but still can use this recipe to cook it. Thank you very much

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Clarissa, I think red snapper or rock fish should be a good substitute :)

  • Nina Backus Nina Backus says:

    Hi Anita. I came from Jakarta & has been living in Utah for almost 20 yrs. Glad to see Indonesian food on your website.

    • Anita Anita says:

      Oh, that is quite a long time away from home Nina. :) I hope my recipes can help you recreate Indonesian dishes at home.

  • Silvia Koningin Silvia Koningin says:

    Hi Anita, your website is always my go-to site whenever I need some inspirations. May I know if this recipe will work without kencur or is there something I can substitute it for? Thanks

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Silvia, it's hard to replicate the taste of kencur so I don't think there is a good substitute for it. On the other hand, it's quite mild, so I would suggest simply omitting in this recipe would be best.

      Also, I haven't been able to find the fresh roots in the US, so I have been using kencur in powder form. If you are able to find kencur powder, also known as sand ginger powder if you buy it from a Chinese market, you can use 1 tsp of it in this recipe.

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