Craving… a wonderful feeling to have when you can satisfy that but a torture when you can’t. I have had this huge craving for Assam fish for quite a long time now which I had been trying to put out of my mind, without much success (like me trying to lose weight – I only ended gaining more instead of losing 😛). Fish is not my specialty – as you all remember the last time when I tried cooking fish, it didn’t turned out quite right. ☹️ So I try to avoid cooking anything that has scales and swim…but darn it, this Assam Fish soon started to even haunt me in my sleep – yes, I dreamed that I was happily slurping up the sauce and relishing on the fish! So I said to myself “come on, are you going to let a dead fish intimidate you for the rest of your life. A cooking ninja would never cower from a challenge.” So I got 3 lovely fish the next day for dinner. First I gave my fishes a royal treatment – frontal and back massage with salt, then I had a little pep talk with them. I looked at them right into their eyes (not easy when they have one on each side) and said “Ok fish, I’m going to give you a nice aromatic spa treatment of lemon grass, galangal & other spices right now and you are going to come out smelling so good and tasting so sweet.”
- 3 mackerel
- 5 tbsp paste from Mom’s Chili Prawns
- 1 rounded tbsp tamarind (asam) pulp
- salt or light soya sauce
- Clean the fish and season it with salt or light soya sauce.
- Prepare the tamarind marinade: soak the tamarind pulp in 120 ml of warm water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the seeds and fiber with your fingers to extract as much juice and flavor as possible. Strain and discard fibers.
- Heat wok with oil till hot, stir-fry the chili paste for a minute medium heat till fragrant.
- Add water to the paste, stir to mix it well.
- Stir in the tamarind juice (according to your taste of sourness).
- Season it with light soya sauce or salt and a little bit of sugar .
- Put in the fish to cook when you are about ready to serve dinner. This is to avoid overcooking the fish. The fish is cooked once its eyes popped.
- Serve it with rice and a plate of vegetables by the side.
I was so darn excited that I managed to get my assam fish right and it tastes just like my mom’s version (well, I still think mom’s cook the best Assam fish). The sauce is very aromatic – the mackerel heightens the flavour of the sauce – great tasting of the spices mix with a spicy tint and a slight sourness – taste just right and it really opens up one’s appetite. I love topping my rice with the sauce. My sister-in-law loves it, Pierre was less enthusiastic as he is not a big fan of fish to begin with.
I usually can make a big bowl of the paste, fry them till fragrant and then keep them in the refrigerator for later use. It comes in very handy when I have to do a last minute dinner entertainment. All I need to do is just defrost and the paste is ready.
I recently learned another new trick from my local Asian store lady – you can actually store the unused portion of galangal by slicing them into pieces, freeze them, then put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. When in need, just take out the number of pieces you need for cooking.