Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Sambal Series - Sambal stingray


I had a timid youth when it came to late night partying. The idea of going to a club always turned out to be more fun than the actual experience. The part of the evening I enjoyed best was the supper we would go to afterwards. Blurry-eyed and half-deaf from having 100 decibels drummed into our ears, it may take prata and teh tarik or Teochew porridge to recalibrate our senses. But eventually, we just dropped the disco beat and went straight to the late-night supper.

Oh, the options we had in Singapore for nocturnal makan.... At the top of my list are the sambal stingray and sambal kangkong from the seafood stall at Adam Road hawker center. As we discussed important issues of day - politics, gossip or matters of the heart, our fingers nimbly work the chopsticks into the white flesh of the fish. I made sure every picking include enough sambal so that I could taste the mingling of salty-sweet spice and fish with each mouthful. I remember the food better than the conversations. Perhaps we might accompany our meal with calamari or clams, but the stingray and the kangkong were a must. We ate with relish until we had to scrape the fish meat from its bones.

Sadly, since I moved to the Bay Area, I have been hard-pressed to find stingray in any of the supermarkets. But last week, while I was shopping for pomfrets at Ranch 99, I spotted these bottom feeders at the fresh seafood section. Or rather, I spotted the "wings" of the stingray. I was so excited, I wondered who I could call to share the news. Yes, that is my life now. So I bought one, went home and plotted my sambal.

My husband helped me peel off its rubbery skin while I prepared the sambal. I used some sambal belacan I had, added a little sugar and some tamarind juice and I was done. I put the fish on the oven and finished by broiling it. A spray of lime juice and it is ready. Sitting succulently on a banana leaf, it transported me back to those late night suppers. The fish was fresh and the spice level just right. I can't wait for the next stingray spotting.

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