Nyonya Food is often associated with spices and spiciness, a unique combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine and also some influence from Portuguese cuisine. My sisters and myself grew up on these delicious foods, and we all love spicy food, thanks to our beloved late mom, who was a very good cook.
This simple dish of Ikan Goreng Cili Garam (Fried Fish with Chili Paste) is one of the most simplest and tastiest dish in a Nyonya household. There are many versions to it, and this is my mom's version. She used to cook this each week as we all love this dish! When we were young, chicken and meat are only served mostly during special festival or Chinese New Year, as they are much more expensive to buy. We eat fish very often, really very fresh fish, bought from the fishermen as we live near the sea. I remember the times when we would follow my mom to the shore sometimes when the fisherman are back from the sea. She would then choose the fish and we would play by the beach, life is so much simpler back then!
This simple dish has only two ingredients for the chili paste, onions and fresh red chili. For the fish, my mom would sometimes use stingray, snapper, mackerel and the best is wolf herring. Wolf Herring is extremely tasty but has so many bones that it is a little difficult to eat, the best cutlery are your fingers! I bought a slice of Wolf Herring and cut it half right in the middle horizontally to come up with two pieces which I fried till really crispy. The fish need not be fried to crisp, but we loved it that way, hmmm, the smell of fried crispy fish is fantastic!
The onions and red chili are blended and fried in oil till fragrant and poured over the fried fish. We are blessed with a modern gadget which I cannot do without, a blender! I had my fair share of pounding using the mortar and pestle and even our own batu giling (grindstone) when we were young. Imagine what our mothers have gone through without any modern gadget in their kitchen, nowadays we never seem to have enough of gadgets, there's always something new!
This is a really tasty dish that is really good with plain white rice. Each time when I cooked this, I would always think of my mom. And each time when I eat this, I would always marvel at the simplicity and the deliciousness of this dish, and say a silent thank you to my mom. If anyone asked me what my favourite fish dish is, this will be it, definitely at the top of my list.
Even my kids love this dish, though when I'm cooking for them, I would choose a fish with lesser bones. I could just have this one dish to go with rice, for me, I do not need any other dish. And yes, more rice, please!
I'm sharing this with
Ikan Goreng Cili Garam (Fried Fish with Chili Paste)
1 piece fish
8-10 fresh red chilies, seeded
salt to taste
1/2 cup oil
- Fry the fish till cooked and crispy on both sides. Remove to a serving plate. Reserve oil, it is very fragrant from the fried fish.
- Blend the red chillies and shallots together to a paste.
- Heat the reserved oil and fry the paste, seasoned with some salt to taste, until fragrant and dry over medium heat, about 12-15 minutes.
- Pour the chili paste over the fried fish. Enjoy!