Pindang Patin: Sumatran Sour & Spicy Fish Soup

This recipe is for a sour and spicy fish soup, originally from Palembang in Sumatra. Light and refreshing, this soup has complex flavours from a variety of ingredients including pineapple, lemongrass and tomatoes.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Patin fish (pangasius nasutus) can be found in rivers and lakes in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia. It is a culinary specialty and a favourite ingredient in some regions in Indonesia, especially in Sumatra. Patin is flavorful and the meat does not fall apart when cooked. This makes it popular throughout Indonesia, where it is farmed nationwide.

This dish, pindang ikan patin, originates in Palembang, South Sumatra, where patin fish is abundant thanks to the Musi river. The river is one of the longest in Indonesia and a source of many types of fish.  The soupy version in this recipe is freshly cooked with complex spices and is best served with steamed rice.

Besides the fish itself, my favourite part of this dish is the trio of pineapple, kemangi (Indonesian basil) and tomatoes. This medley of fruits and herbs truly makes the dish deliciously refreshing!

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Pindang Patin: Sumatran Sour and Spicy Fish Soup

Pindang Patin: Sumatran Sour and Spicy Fish Soup

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Fish, Soups & Stews
  • Method: Simmering
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Low Fat


This recipe is for a sour and spicy fish soup, originally from Palembang in Sumatra. Light and refreshing, this soup has complex flavours from a variety of ingredients including pineapple, lemongrass and tomatoes.


  • 2 patin fish (medium sized, around 1 kg)
  • 8 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 3 big red chillies, chopped
  • 8 bird’s eye chillies (optional)
  • 0.5 teaspoon roasted shrimp paste (optional)
  • 3 cm fresh turmeric, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cm fresh ginger, peeled, sliced
  • 3 cm fresh galangal, peeled, bruised or sliced
  • 2 fresh/dried salam leaves
  • 3 fresh/dried kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lemongrass, use only the white part, bruised and knotted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp tamarind
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 750 ml water
  • 2 red tomatoes, quartered
  • 100 gr sliced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup kemangi leaves (Indonesian basil)

Pindang Patin ingredients


  1. Cut the patin fish into 3-4 pieces each, rinse thoroughly with fresh cold water. Drizzle fresh lime juice (from one lime) and salt all over the fish, mix thoroughly, set aside for 15 minutes while preparing steps 2-3 below.
  2. Mix the tamarind with 3 tbsp water, knead into a liquid paste, strain the juice, set aside.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, blend the shallots, garlic, 3 bird’s eye chillies (optional), big red chillies and turmeric into a fine paste.
  4. Wash the marinated fish from step 1 thoroughly, set aside.
  5. In a wok, heat vegetable oil over high heat.
  6. Add the blended spices, roasted shrimp paste, galangal, ginger, salam leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, salt and sugar. Fry until fragrant, around 4 minutes.
  7. Add the water and tamarind/lemon juice.
  8. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning. The taste should be sweet and sour with a well balanced salt.
  9. Add the fish, pineapple and the remaining 5 whole bird’s eye chillies. Simmer for another 15 minutes over medium to low heat.Pindang Patin simmering
  10. When done, add the tomatoes and the basil leaves. Gently stir and immediately turn off the heat.


  • Patin fish can be difficult to get outside Southeast Asia, so feel free to substitute it with other types of fish such as mackerel, snapper or tuna. If fresh fish is unavailable, use frozen fish, making sure to thaw it properly before using it.
  • Use as much fresh spice as possible, but if unavailable, substitute the fresh turmeric and galangal with their powders, and, and salam leaves, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass can be substituted with the dried versions.
  • Tamarind can be substituted with lemon, lime or apple cider vinegar.
  • Bird’s eye chillies are optional, but red chillies are recommended as they add to the flavour of the dish.
  • If Indonesian Basil is not available, substitute it with Thai Basil.

Keywords: One-pot meals, spicy, fish, ikan

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