Cat Fish in Spiced Tamarind Gravy (Asam Pedas Ikan Duri)
This was what I cooked on Sunday. A traditional and most common dish amongst the Malays, "Asam Pedas" or in a more direct translation would be Spiced Tamarind Gravy. However, most Chinese in Singapore would call this dish as "Asam Fish". This dish is mostly cooked with fish. Although it is suitable with any kinds of fish but it goes best with cat fish, stingray or mackerel. In addition, the taste is sometimes enhanced with laksa leaves or vietnamese mint which is known as "daun kesum" in Malay. This is heaven for most!!
Before I got married, I love this dish because of the spiciness but I don't like it when it is too spicy. My mother makes it real hot by using dried red chillies as the main ingredient and to enhance the spiciness, she would add crushed black pepper corns. Since the rest of my siblings like it real real hot and I am the only one who is considered the coolest in the family, majority wins. So I had to try and deal with the heat. The only way that I can describe it to you is that it will make you feel like there is smoke coming out from both your ears after tasting it. To top that, even your butts are giving out smoke when you start toiling away in the toilet the next morning and if only you were a cartoon character, you could have flown straight to North Pole and park your butt at the tip of the iceberg. Hehehe..how is that for speaking from experience. ;p Now that I am married to my husband, I could at least go easy on the heat and enjoy this dish the way I love it.
For those who are like me, this is a cooler version of this commonly very hot dish. As alway, I like my fish fried first. Of course you can cook the fish as it is. It's just that I don't enjoy the taste of unfried fish unless I feel like it once in a while.
10-12 fish pieces of your choice - cleaned (I used cat fish and if you like it fried like me, add two tablespoons of turmeric powder and salt to taste and fry till cooked and crispy on the outside)
5-6 pieces of lady's fingers - cut into twos
2-3 brinjals - halved lengthwise and cut into twos (I ran out of these so I omitted them)
2 stalks lemon grass - crushed and cut into twos
a handful of tamarind paste - extracted in a big bowl of water
1 spoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of Ajinamoto (optional)
salt to taste
a bunch of laksa leaves or vietnamese mint - plucked from stems
a teaspoon of crushed black pepper corns (optional) - if you like it real hot
(**items to be blended in a food processor with a little water to form a paste)
10 fresh red chillies** - you can substitute with 30 stalks of dried red chillies which had been slit in halves, boiled and rinsed until de-seeded (I prefer fresh red chillies because they are less spicy than dried chillies)
3 large onions**
3 cm ginger**
1. Heat oil in a deep based pan and add crushed lemon grass and saute for a few seconds.
2. Add in the blended ingredients and saute.
3. Add in sugar and saute until oil separates.
4. When the sauteing mix gets dry, make a gap in the centre. If you see oil starts to release and collects at the gaps, oil has separated.
5. Add in the tamarind extract. Add in salt to taste (and Ajinamoto, if you prefer).
6. Bring to a boil.
7. Add in the laksa leaves or vietnamese mint and proceed with step no. 8. If you are cooking your fish pieces, you may add them in now and let simmer for three to five minutes or until your fish pieces are 3/4 cooked.
8. Add in the lady's fingers and brinjal pieces.
9. Add in the fried fish pieces.
10. Simmer for three to five minutes. Remember to taste check!
11. Off fire and serve.
Best eaten with white rice. I sometimes have it with white bread too. Enjoy!