Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mom's Nyonya Ikan Cili Garam (Nyonya-style Fried Fish with Chili Paste)


Preparing Nyonya food is often considered a laborious task as the cuisine is synonymous with super heady aroma and spicy blend of various spices and ingredients prepared in the most traditional way - using stone mortar and pestle (lesung) or a very thick and heavy stone slab that comes with a stone rolling pin (batu giling). This perception that many hold is, well, quite true!..that is, depending on what you cook. Not all Nyonya or Peranakan food are difficult or require a long-drawn process to prepare. There are times that I just want a quick-fix Nyonya food and ikan cili garam is definitely one of my favorites in the super easy category. Unlike the older generation of Nyonyas who were known to be real fussy cooks who swear by the use of tools like the lesung and batu giling to bring out the best of taste and fragrance from the spices or ingredients, I am just thankful to whoever that invented the electric blender!

Below is my darling late Mom's recipe. She used to cook this sometimes 2 or 3 times a week and we were so contented with just a simple dish. Hers tasted fabulous because she would tirelessly pound all the ingredients by hand using lesung or batu giling. The only complain I have when I made this sometimes was when the chilies were not spicy enough. This is where comes the addition of bird's eye chilies (cili padi). The ingredients for the paste are extremely uncomplicated - only shallots, chilies and salt. However, never underestimate how simple and few ingredients can make a dish tastes oh so delicious!


The best types of fishes for this are ikan gelama (sorry! donch know what it's called in English), pomfret, mackerel, stingray or snapper. (The fish in the pics is ikan gelama, as we call here in Malaysia).

Mom's Recipe
2 fishes (whole or slices)
1/2 cup oil

Pound/blend together:
5 shallots
6 fresh chilies
3 fresh bird's eye chilies (cili padi)
1/2 tsp salt

- Heat the 1/2 cup oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry the fish till brown. Drain off the oil and place the fried fish on a serving plate.
- Using the leftover oil from frying the fish, take about 3-4 tbsp and heat it up in a frying pan/wok. Pour in the blended chili paste and saute for 12-15 minutes over medium heat. Drain the oil and dish up the chili paste and pour over the fried fish. (Note: If you believe that life should be lived well, then dribble some of those oil from saute-ing the chili onto the fish too. Yumm yummm!)


Best,

32 comments:

  1. This is simple and delicious.Thanks for sharing your mom's recipe.

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  2. I'm drooling over this dish. I remember my grandma made something similar. Thanks for sharing :)

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  3. This is simply delicious with the chili along. :)

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  4. I too, am thankful for the blender - though I had been quite picky about choosing an Indian brand- their design is somehow more suitable to create the paste consistency that this required for Asian cooking... :) YOur fish looks really good, now I am craving for it with a bowl of white rice!

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  5. It has been awhile never seen this authentic dish,...now I am hungry !

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  6. It's a beautiful dish! You are right sometimes the simple ingredients bring out the best in the dish. I love "mom's" recipes!

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  7. THis really looks like something I can do!

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  8. Joslynn, gotta agree on the laborious part of Nyonya cooking. But I guess that's the price we gotta pay to eat those delicious dishes, right?

    I might as well just try your mom's recipe out since except mine, the taste buds of the rest of my family seems fixated ... They're stuck with Malaysian and Chinese foods, too stubborn to be changed. Plus, their fussiness is driving me nuts ... =(

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  9. When I was still in Penang, I always bought this dish from the economic rice stall, lazy to grind the spices and chili mar...!! hehehhehe

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  10. Joslynn, I love this type of simple dish. If given a choice I can eat this everyday. I too prefer to tumbuk the chili in lesung rather than the food processor.

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  11. So simple and yummy, and drool worthy. Makan pakai nasi panas, sedap!

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  12. This looks so good! Just brings the simple fried fish to another level of yum! Will take note of that Chili paste recipe...should be good with most of the fried food yeah?

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  13. This dish can make me go for second helping of rice! yum yum!

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  14. omg, I have been searching for a chilli fish recipe like this for some time already. Thanks for sharing. Yours look super yummy. The chilli must be really addictive.

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  15. I am sure this is delicious! :) In Vietnam, we have some dishes very very simple like this one too, and we all love it :)

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  16. Joslyn..I can have this with 2 plates of rice...mmm delish! Thanks for sharing your mom's secret recipe :))

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  17. Wa...its been a lon glong time since i had this from my mum..;)
    Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Used to have this when my parents' helper (from Indonesia) cook similar kind of fried fish with loads of chili, for them.

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  19. I think my husband will love this spicy blend with fish! Yummm,....!!

    Thanks to grand mommy's recipes!

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  20. Your Mom's recipe is delicious! Love it nice and spicy too.

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  21. This sounds so flavourful. I'd love to try some.
    *kisses* HH

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  22. I love the spice of the chili paste - excellent with fried fish, yum!

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  23. Hi All, thanks for your comments! My pleasure to be sharing my Mom's recipe and glad that some of you are also already familiar with this dish.

    p/s Gertrude, tumbuk with lesung is a lot nicer, I agree. You so rajin!

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  24. Hi Petite Nyona, wow! I love this fried fish with sambal.
    Not many I know can do this well.
    Looking at your dish, sure no problem finish 3 plates of rice, ha ha...
    By the way, when you cook Nyonya style hum choy pai kuat tong, send me telegram.
    Have a nice day and keep a song in your heart, Lee.

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  25. Nothing beats mum's recipes, it looks great! :)

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  26. Yes.....spicy...just the perfect way to go. I love it. It makes swallowing rice a greater delight....haha

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  27. I'm with Gert. Will tumbuk the cili with my lesung since only 2 of us will be eating. :) I'll only use the blender if I am making a big quantity to freeze.

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  28. Definitely delicious recipe from our dear darling mom..i just cooked this dish but with siakap instead.

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  29. My mom usually fried the fish, which marinated with sea salt, and we had them with plain congee as a dinner. Yummy!

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  30. Hi Joslyn, haven't seen you for awhile! How are you? Oh, I missed your nyonya food very much. LOL!
    Have a great day!
    Regards, kristy

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  31. hi thanks for sharing this Cili Garam recipe, I think this is the most authentic style of preparing it and tastes the best. I had a nyonya auntie friend who prepares it the same way in a pounder, that's the same way as you do so now we know it goes back a long way back for authenticity.

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    Replies
    1. you're welcome katherina. yes, this is a simple, authentic and just delicious nyonya dish. :)

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