Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pomfret in black bean sauce

fermented black bean pomfret recipe

A couple months ago, I went to the 2 supermarkets I go to most frequently - Whole Foods and Ranch 99 - armed with a notepad and a pen. I wrote down the names of almost all the fishes. Yes, I looked silly but there is a method to the madness. When I got home, I made two lists out of the names. In the first list, I looked up the alternative names for the fishes. Many of the fishes look familiar, but I probably know them by a different name. For instance, I thought I only knew canned sardines and was excited to find fresh sardines at Whole Foods. I wondered what fresh sardines tasted like. To my surprise, after I cooked and ate them, I realized that my mum actually cooked them often in Singapore, only they are called "ikan tamban". It occurred to me there might be more fishes hiding behind other names. Sometimes, when I look at the array of fishes available, I'm not sure I'd know how to cook them, but now I feel less intimidated when I know I've eaten them before.

My second list was to write the mercury level of each fish so I can make an informed decision when I buy fish. I have become more aware of the high mercury level of the some of the fishes I used to eat a lot of - for instance king mackerel. I want to make sure we are not ingesting an alarming level of mercury. So now I go grocery shopping with these two lists in my pocket.

My research for the second list showed that pomfret is low in mercury. This is good news because we ate this fish (ikan bawal) often at home. My mum would make sambal pomfret, curry pomfret, kicap (sweet black soy sauce) pomfret, assam pedas (spicy tamarind sauce) pomfret.... well, you get the idea. I decided to make ikan masak taucu (fish with black bean sauce) which my mum used to cook with ikan kembung (Indian mackerel). It has an intriguing taste - the combination of fermented black beans, tamarind juice and onions produces a tangy sauce.

I used white pomfret - you can use any type. When I fry fish, I always use a wok because the smaller base means I can use less oil. It is also easier to turn the fish over. When I used to help my mum in the kitchen, she told me that she rubs turmeric on the fish to get rid of any fishy smell or taste that the fish might have. Sometimes she also seasons the fish with salt, but I did not do so here because I was using fermented black beans which is already salty.

fermented black bean pomfret recipe

fermented black bean pomfret recipe

Pomfret in black bean sauce
(Ikan masak taucu)

1 medium size pomfret, cleaned and halved
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
½ inch ginger, minced
2 tablespoons fermented black bean
1 cup tamarind juice (from 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste)
2 green serrano chilies
1 teaspoon sugar
oil for frying

1. Rub the fish with turmeric. Heat about ½ inch oil in a wok to medium heat. Fry each half of the fish separately until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

2. Drain the oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons of oil in the wok. Lowering the heat to medium, put in the onions and fry for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, stirring for 1 minute. Add the fermented black bean, stirring for another minute. Then pour in the tamarind juice. Bring up the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the sugar. Let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes.

3. Pour the hot sauce over the pomfret and garnish with serrano chilies.

Serve with rice and a vegetable dish. I recommend this sambal belacan kangkong.


Audrey said...

My mom likes to go to Marina for fish...which type of pomfret did you use? Yellow or White?

high over happy said...

Oh, I used white pomfret. I'll amend the post to reflect same. Thanks!

Skippetty said...

Hey Par, you know you're welcome to come stay with us in Sydney any time! (and of course you've gotta do all the cooking - I'll do the cleaning). You're such a rad cook!

PS. Never knew tamban fish were sardines either. We used to eat the teochew porridge at Goodwood Park Hotel, where they made a KILLER fried tamban fish - deep fried all the way so you could the entire thing, slathered in gravy. Mmmm.

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