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baked malaysian spicy tamarind snapper

October 22, 2009

Ever wonder why this crazy Malaysian girl’s food blog has hardly any Malaysian food recipes on it?

It’s because I’m a terrible Malaysian cook.

Actually, let’s rephrase that. It’s because my mother is an absolutely amazing Malaysian cook – and I’m often far too terrified to cook anything that is familiar to her, because I’ll inevitably sit there at the end of it all, poking at my food and wishing I’d let her cook instead.

She is encouraging though, all four feet eleven inches of her, and has suggested that I learn to cook Malaysian food “the easy way”.

“Cheh,” she will say “you learn the short cut way first then the long way will not be so hard.”

I wish you could smell this picture...

I wish you could smell this picture…

Now I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person out there who wishes they could produce delicious Malaysian-style food without spending hours grinding and blending spices.

Like this snapper – this absolutely beautiful, fragrant, slightly spicy, firm fleshed snapper that I bought from the markets and prepped in not-even-five-minutes.

This snapper (that would usually be grilled in a parcel of banana leaves) that we threw into the oven for a fuss free dish at dinner.

look at that firm white flesh!

look at that firm white flesh!

It won’t take you very much time at all, being the “short cut way”, but once you’ve mastered this for a quick weeknight meal, I’m sure you’ll be far better prepared to handle the longer version.

Once I get around to finding out what that “longer version” is of course… Mum?

baked malaysian spicy tamarind snapper
Cuisine: Malaysian
 
I love this fish. It's quick and easy to throw together, and the use of a pre-made paste means you won't be scouring your local metropolis to find ingredients you've never seen before. It's also absolutely delicious, and makes a perfect dinner for two with rice (or a tasty, carbohydrate free dinner for one).
Ingredients
  • 1x 250g snapper (cleaned and scaled)
  • ½ brown onion
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 5 daun kosom leaves (also known as Vietnamese coriander leaves) (optional)
  • ¼C Assam Ikan paste (spicy tamarind fish paste)
  • 1 large banana leaf (or two smaller ones)
  • coriander leaves to serve
How to make it
  1. See step-by-step instructions with images below

 

mise-en-place

mise-en-place

 

mr tean's tamarind fish paste

mr tean’s tamarind fish paste

Note 1: I used Mr Tean’s Assam Fish Paste (pictured below), which can be found at your local Asian grocer. If you can’t find this brand, go for anything that says “Assam” or “Tamarind” and “Fish” or “Ikan” on it.

Note 2: We grow our own daun kosom, but these can sometimes be purchased at Asian grocers either fresh or frozen.

slice the onion into half moons

slice the onion into half moons

How to do it:

1. Slice your onion into half moons and separate the rings. You want to cut them between 1-2mm thick so they will cook and impart a sweetness to the fish.

rub the spicy tamarind paste on

rub the spicy tamarind paste on

2. Cut the kaffir lime leaves into three or four pieces. Shred the daun kosom. Mix both leaves in with the Assam paste and rub it all over the inside and outside of the fish.

stuff the snapper with onions and wrap in banana leaf

stuff the snapper with onions and wrap in banana leaf

3. Stuff as much of the onion in the fish’s cavity as will fit and put it on a banana leaf. Scatter the remaining onion on the top of the fish.

4. Place the second banana leaf over the top of the fish and wrap the entire package in foil.

5. You can leave the package in the fridge to marinade for the day while you’re at work, or you can bake it straight away in a 160C (fan-forced) or 180C oven for about 25 minutes.

oh my goodness! the mouth waters!

oh my goodness! the mouth waters!

6. You’ll be able to tell that the fish is cooked by looking at the eye. It will be  milky white in colour when the fish is done. And oh! The fragrance! The smell and flavour of the banana leaf and the spicy sour tamarind paste that just seeps through to the snapper’s flesh… a delight! Truly.


  • #1
    October 22nd, 2009

    My mother’s four foot eleven too (and shrinking)! Unfortunately she’s not a great cook and I really wish I was one of those people who could claim that’s where they get their cooking inspiration/motivation/direction…

  • #2
    October 22nd, 2009

    I love the learning the short cut first idea! This looks so simple but delicious – I love snapper! I definitely want to give it a try! Thanks!

  • #3
    October 22nd, 2009

    Heehee I’m starting to think that it’s a prerequisite of Malaysian mothers to be below five foot 😀 I can just imagine how fantastic this would smell and taste! Must get my hands on some banana leaf

  • #4
    October 22nd, 2009

    Did you go to Carlo Petrini’s talk on Sunday? I think I saw you… I was talking to Simon and I think I saw you but wasn’t too sure (and of course, I was starstrucked!). Heehee! Oh and banana leaf – yes, how great would it be if we can get our hands on some banana leaf, fresh grated coconut, and curry leaves!

  • #5
    October 22nd, 2009

    He He..my mum’s *just* 5 foot (but I shouldn’t talk ‘cos I’m not that much taller!). I don’t time consuming Malaysian food that often too because of all the pounding involved – Mum used to rope me in as chief spice-paste pounder whenever we had an open house – still haven’t recovered!

  • #6
    October 22nd, 2009

    Pity we can’t smell it!! Looks fantastic though yummm! Hee hee fishy fishy fishy

  • #7
    October 23rd, 2009

    I saw this last night and just totally adored it. I LOVE fishy fish dish, Malaysian style!

  • #8
    Chik
    October 23rd, 2009

    Shez, it could be worse. You don’t have to make long distance calls. You don’t have to play phone charades “..put in some daun kesom” ” err which one is that?” “the pointy one, bit black in the middle..” Hmm. Maybe you could help my mum set up a food blog.
    Also, get a liquidiser/ blender thingie for spice paste, much faster than pounding. Video at http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/10/Beef_rendang, 1:18 mark.

  • #9
    October 23rd, 2009

    @mademoiselle délicieuse : You know the crazy thing, mum didn’t know how to cook when she got married 26-odd years ago. She’s clearly made up for lost time!

    @Betty: Me too! And it’s de-psyching me out for the rest of the food I’ve learnt to love (not not learnt to cook).

    @Steph: I think so too! Does this mean we’re going to shrink over the next couple of years? 😉

    @Trisha: Oh! I did! But I was distracted and sleepy from the darkness so didn’t see you 🙁 I’m all inspired to hunt down some coconut now… I wonder what the mother will say about that?!

    @Shaz: Hahaa! That’s hilarious 🙂 My mum made me peel eggs (to build my gross motor skills she says… I’m not so sure).

    @FFichiban: Probably good actually, I’d be sniffing up that tamarind and daum kosom all day otherwise!

    @Anh: Oh me too! Though I’m even more in love with super fishy fish like mackerel. (Note to self: learn to make super fishy fish).

    @Chik: This is true. My mother sent me outside to pick the daum kosom and I came back empty handed. Twice. But I know what it looks like now! And oh! I have one of those! Thanks! Must. Investigate. Paste. 🙂

  • #10
    October 23rd, 2009

    I always like trying new fish dishes. I will definately put this on my list. So simple and looks delicious.

  • #11
    October 26th, 2009

    I like how your mum starts with “cheh….” LOL sounded just like my mum! LOL The recipe looks simple enough, all hail Mr Tean’s! hehehe… the assam paste is good, I just used it with a can of Tuna, and there is my lunch ready in minutes! 😛

  • #12
    April 27th, 2011

    omg same! i’m terrified of cooking anythign chinese or singaporean when i go back to signapore because my mum is such an awesome cook! i ‘blame’ her for my culinary awakening only when i moved to london to study!that said, i’m trying to learn!

    and your snapper looks fantastic!

Shez