Friday, February 26, 2010

Jade: Bitemyfish

I never liked fish, growing up..I was perfectly happy staring at them in my favourite tropical fish shop, but eating them was a completely different story...I'm not sure if it's the guilt I felt towards the countless guppies and goldfish that ultimately ended up being flushed down the toilet, or the horrific memories of choking on pesky little fish bones....All I know is, up till about 6 months ago [when I discovered cod loin, skinless and boneless thankyouplease], the number of fish dishes I deemed worthy of a cursory prod with my fork came up to a pathetic 2. There was "Hu Bngui"...thick slabs of fish layered over sugar cane, dried shiitakes, dried chillies and garlic, bathed in lush soy broth..braised for hours and hours until even the bones all but disintegrate...and Assam fish...refreshingly tangy with just the right amount of sweetness..and lots and lots of vegetables to soak up the rich, spicy gravy--the kind of dish that is perfect for those days when you're craving a big bowl of sticky white rice :)

Assam fish [adapted from Rasa Malaysia, tweaked to taste like the Assam fish my mum makes at home]

1 slab cod loin
6 ladies fingers, cut in half
2 baby brinjals, pared into chunks [ My mum makes it with native idea what the proper name is, but they're round and orangey...they look a bit like bloated persimmons..taste like a cross between brinjal and cooked the stuff]
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1/2-1 tsp turmeric powder
small handful mixed fresh coriander and mint, chopped [ original recipe called for laksa leaves, I couldn't find any :(]
1/2 -1 tbsp gula melaka/ palm sugar
fish sauce to taste

Spice paste:
1 clove garlic
half a stalk lemon grass [ I had a very small stalk so I used 1]
2-3 shallots
2 birds eye chillies
1 tbsp dried chilli flakes [ depends how spicy you want to it to be]
1/4 tbsp belachan/ shrimp paste

1/2 cup water
1 tbsp tamarind pulp

1. Grind spice paste
2. Soak tamarine pulp in 1/2 cup warm water for a few minutes, squeeze and drain, reserving the tamarind juice...or whatever you call it
3. Heat up some oil and fry the spice paste till fragrant
4. Add vegetables, toss to coat in spice mix
5. Add tamarine juice, turmeric powder and bring to boil
6. Pop the lid on and let it simmer till vegetables soften
7. Add sugar and fish sauce to taste. It's all about finding that addictive balance of sour, sweet and salty
8. Add fish, simmer on low heat until fish is cooked..should take about 5 minutes
9. Dish up some steaming jasmine rice, spoon over the fiery and deliciously zingy gravy...sigh...I'm so glad I decided to start eating fish:)
*Having said that, with a few oyster mushrooms thrown in, sans the fish, this would make for an amazing vegetarian dish as well.

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