Auntie Ruby's Chili Fish - The best way to enjoy this is to eat it with your handsWednesday, April 13, 2011
This is my tenth blogged recipe! Great. Now, I have another nine hundred and ninety more to go.
After I started my own blogspot with my first recipe, I proudly told one of my daughters. She almost screamed and reacted with an alarmed look. For a moment, I thought she was displeased that her father had joined her in the world of blogging. Then we realised this: she heard me say that I have a bald-spot. We had a good laugh.
Ok, let's get down to food.
Chili fish, or sometimes called Sambal Fish is yet another dish with a generic WYSIWYG name. A mackeral fish stuffed with fried chili paste and then deep fried.
Whenever my Mum laid this dish on the table, we dropped whatever we were holding - literally. We were always reduced to our bare hands. All inhibitions were cast away as we tore the fish apart the "finger lickin' good" way; accompanied by white rice.
It is an appetizing dish and ranked very highly on our wish-list whenever my Mum visits us. Actually, this is one of her favourite dishes. She would eat - and lick - her fish cleaner than all of us. There is the flavourful chilli-laced flesh to enjoy, the crunchy head and neck parts to chew through and the overflowing sambal chili to lap up. The leftover bones looked as if a cat had gone through the fish.
Traditionally, this Malay dish is made with Cencaru fish or Hard Tail Scad. It is not easily available in most wet markets. The skin is hard and the middle scale should be torn out (the fish monger can do this for you). It is great for this method of cooking or served in assam curry. The flesh is firm and the neck portion is crispy when fried. This dish can also be made with other members of the Mackerel family like Kembung, Selar and yes, even the larger Saba fish.
The chili stuffing is important and I will give details on how to make a good paste. Properly fried, every part of the fish can be enjoyed. This recipe is a good case in point on how a relatively cheap and ordinary fish can result in an appetizing meal in the hands of a good Malay or Nonya cook.
Talking about hands, the only way to eat this is with your hand. Not only will it be more delicious, but your fingers are the best bones detector. And hush, don’t talk too much if you want to enjoy this.
|Chili, lemon grass and tumeric |
(shallots not in pic)
For 10 fishes (Cencaru, Kembung or Selar)
6 stalks lemon grase
2 inch tumeric
15 fresh chillies
10 chili padis
A thumb size of Belachan
Sugar & salt
Kaffir Lime leaves
half a small bowl of oil
Preparing the Chili paste
- Blend the chopped lemon grass, shallots, tumeric and chili.
- Toast the belachan. Don't use the powder form which is not as fragrant as those in paste form.
Frying the Chili paste
- Heat up some oil and fry the blended ingredients. Add salt and sugar. Note that you should not put into much oil, unlike other kinds of sambal, as you will be frying the stuffed fish again. A dryer paste also ensures that the stuffing stays in the fish.
- Fry for about 10 minutes. Add the finely diced kaffir lime leafs and take the paste out of the wok.
Preparing the fish
- Ask the fish monger to remove the gullet of the fish. If he is kind, he will also remove all that stuff from the stomach. If not, you have to do it yourself. Rinse and clean the fish thoroughly.
- Slit the fish length wise on each side (see photo). Remember that you are not filleting the fish but making 'pockets.'
- After the paste has cooled, stuff the paste in. Start with the top of the neck and then from the side.
|A slit on each side|
Frying the stuffed fish:
- Add oil for deep frying. The oil's level should be mid-way up the fish. Heat up the oil first before you put the fish in (prevents the fish sticking to the pan or wok).
- Fry till it is cooked. About 8-10 minutes on each side. You should see charred bits on the side where the stuffed chili is.
|Stuffing the Chili|
|Neck view - stuff the chili here first|
The sambal chili can also be used to cook with lady fingers, squid etc. Keep the extra for future use.
|Enjoy with your hands...here is another simple reason why you |
do that - to FEEL the BONES and avoid an expensive visit to ENT