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Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก

Don’t you love it when a seemingly complex dish turns out to be fairly simple?

Me too.  That’s one of the reasons I love hor mok, the Thai curry fish custard.  With its multiple layers,  first of Thai basil and/or cabbage, then succulent chunks of fish, then a complex-tasting curried fish custard, and finally a coconut cream topping garnished with thinly sliced red pepper and kaffir lime leaves, all stacked in a banana leaf fashioned into a bowl and then steamed…. well, it sounds pretty darn complicated to make!

In fact, after deciding I was going to attempt this dish, I set aside an entire afternoon, dedicated solely to hor mok making.  But, I was happily surprised that it wasn’t as complicated to make as it sounds.  It was actually done in no time at all.

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมกYou start by cutting banana leaves into 5-6 inch rounds and then pleating the edges and securing them with toothpicks to form little bowls.  This is actually quite easy once you get the hang of it, and was surprisingly satisfying for me…  But if you prefer to skip this step, hor mok can be steamed in little ramekin dishes instead.

Then you make the curry fish custard.  Although this custard has all of the delicious flavors of a traditional Thai red curry, you don’t even have to master the art of separating the coconut cream into its milk and oil layers!  You simply put some red curry paste into a blender along with fresh fish, an egg, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and some seasonings and blend away.  It’s that easy!

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมกAnd then it’s assembly time.  A generous handful of Thai basil leaves are placed on the bottom of the banana leaf bowl.  Shredded cabbage can also be added, but I opted for a purely seafood curry dish this time.  Fresh chunks of white fish go in next, followed by the curry fish custard.  A little thickened coconut cream is dolloped on top, garnishes added, and the whole concoction is steamed for 10-15 minutes.  Before you know it, you’ll have a wonderful Thai curry fish custard for dinner.

The other reasons I love hor mok?

It’s super delicious.

And it makes the boyfriend happy, which makes me happy.

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก


Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก

Makes 3 servings

Thai Curry Fish Custard | Hor Mok | ห่อหมก


  • 2 medium filets of a white fish such as catfish or tilapia
  • 2 Tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
  • 1 red jalapeno pepper, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream, for topping
  • 1 Tablespoon rice flour
  • banana leaves and toothpicks


  1. Start by making your banana leaf bowl according to this step-by-step guide.
  2. Next cut the fish filets into bite-sized pieces. You should have approximately 2 cups. Slice the kaffir lime leaves and red pepper into very fine strips. Wash the Thai basil leaves.
  3. Place one cup of the bite-sized fish pieces into a blender along with the red curry paste, egg, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Blend until a paste is formed.
  4. Add the chilled coconut milk and the majority of the thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, saving a few for use in the topping, and blend again until incorporated. If this mixture seems too thick, add a bit more coconut milk. If you are using freshly squeezed coconut milk, use the cream part instead.
  5. Lay a generous layer of Thai basil leaves on the bottom of each banana leaf wrapper. Add the other one cup of fish cubes on top and then scoop in the prepared fish custard.
  6. Mix 1/4 cup of coconut cream with one tablespoon of rice flour and stir until there are no lumps. Place a spoonful of this thickened cream on top of the fish custard and sprinkle with the thinly sliced red pepper and kaffir lime leaves.
  7. Steam for approximately 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve with jasmine rice.

20 comments… add one
  • Arpita September 1, 2018, 5:44 am

    Hi there! This looks absolutely delicious. I am thinking of making this at a food sale. Was wondering how does this dish hold up when a little cold? Would need to make them ahead of time :)

    • Rachel September 2, 2018, 3:28 am

      Hi Arpita, it’s definitely best when right out of the steamer, although it does fine when reheated at home as well. Best, Rachel

  • Mariafe foose May 7, 2018, 2:41 pm

    My husband and I just got back from Thailand
    And fell in love with this food
    Now that I have a recipe’s i know my other son would love too.

  • Jim March 7, 2017, 1:18 pm

    Looks amazing! Would this work as a starter?

  • ไมค์ September 8, 2015, 4:06 am

    To Kerry’s question. .. Try using ramekins and put them in a water bath (maybe half way up the side of the ramekin), Loosely cover and steam in the oven at about 300 or 325. Timings will change, but it should work fine.

  • ไมค์ September 8, 2015, 4:03 am

    Great rendition of this dish!! The hardest part for me is making decent banana leaf boats. Ramekins work almost as well – at the expense of authenticity.

    Made this one time using finely-sliced, steamed cabbage as the ‘bed’. Be sure to squeeze the excess liquid off before putting it in the boat/ramekin

    Thanks for a great recipes

  • KerrY December 3, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Is there another way of cooking this as I don’t have a steamer
    Khob Kuhn Ka

    • Rachel December 3, 2014, 3:25 pm

      Hi Kerry, I haven’t tried cooking it any other way, so I’m not sure…

  • cyn October 4, 2014, 8:59 am

    pictures look absolutely stunning!

    • Rachel October 4, 2014, 2:34 pm

      thanks, Cyn!

  • peephole March 6, 2014, 6:19 pm

    Looks lovely in those banana bowls–great idea. I just saw this dish on the Penang show by Anthony Bourdain and wanted to find a recipe on the internet. It’s just like fish mousseline, but made with coconut milk instead of cow-cream. Much more healthy!

  • Galih November 12, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Love your site so much,,,, we tried to cook this one and obsoluilty big success…my German family love it!! Thanks a lot…love your photograph…make people salivating….;)

    • Rachel November 13, 2013, 1:32 am

      Thanks so much, Galih! I’m happy you enjoyed it!

  • Tina November 7, 2013, 1:45 am

    Hi, this sounds amazing! Do the banana leaves flavor the fish or curry at all?

    • Rachel November 7, 2013, 5:07 pm

      Hi Tina, the banana leaves impart a very subtle flavor to the dish. I’m sure it would still be excellent if you don’t use them though!

  • Alisa October 28, 2013, 12:48 pm

    I’ve been craving this dish! Most Thai restaurants don’t have this on the menu either. I thought it would be complicated to make, but you make it sound easy enough. I’ll definitely try to make this, but one question for you. What is coconut cream? Is it the same thing as coconut milk?

    • Rachel October 28, 2013, 3:00 pm

      Hi Alisa! Coconut cream is basically the thicker, creamier part of coconut milk. If you leave coconut milk to sit, undisturbed, it will naturally separate into its cream and milk layers — the cream will float on top and the thinner milk will be at the bottom. If you’re using canned coconut milk, just don’t shake the can before you open it and you can scoop the cream right off the top :)

  • Fawn @ Cowen Park Kitchen October 12, 2013, 2:35 am

    This looks really delicious. I will certainly be pinning this to make later!

  • Purabi Naha | Cosmopolitan Currymania September 18, 2013, 5:00 pm

    OH MY! I have never come across such a Thai dish. This looks so pretty and love the layering. It is an absolute “go-to” recipe for those who love fish recipes and Thai food. I love the photograph!

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