Simple Eats – Assam Fish Head 阿叁鱼头
I love spicy food. No wait… I LOVE spicy food. Now that’s more like it. 🙂
When I saw a recipe for Assam Seafood in the latest issue of Xin Flavours, I knew I had to try it.
The recipe requires one to prepare the spicy paste aka rempah from scratch. Quite a challenge for a person who’s used to cooking from pre-fab mixes. Nonetheless, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!
(1) Paste Ingredients A
50g minced shallot
25g minced garlic
(2) Paste Ingredients B
20g minced galangal
20g minced tumeric (kunyit)
15g minced lemongrass (serai)
100g minced red chilli
10g minced ginger flower
(3) Paste Ingredients C
80g tamarind (assam) paste, mixed with 200ml water and extract tamarind juice
8 medium prawns
8 fish slices
80g squid cut into rings (I replaced all the seafood with one white snapper fish head)
1/2 brinjal, cut into pieces (I omitted this as I couldn’t find it in the supermarket and added cauliflower and broccoli instead)
2 lady’s fingers, cut diagonally into pieces
1 tomato cut into pieces
4 pineapple slices
1 red chilli, cut into sections
2 tablesp fish sauce
45g fine sugar
2 tablesp vegetable oil
Instructions (as from the magazine)
1. Boil water in a pot. Blance the seafood and vegetable ingredients separately. Drain and set aside
2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok. Add Paste Ingredients A followed by Paste Ingredients B. Saute over low heat until fragrant.
3. Add Paste Ingredient C and bring to a boil. Add blanched ingredients and toss evenly. Serve.
The recipe sounds easy right? Well, so I thought…
Firstly I must confess that I “upsized” the ingredients so as to accomodate the fish head. It’s a rather big white snapper fish head we are talking about here. Hence, its almost impossible for it to be “blanched”, not only because of its sheer size, but also due to the fact that all the wonderful flavours would be lost.
By “mincing”, I reckon the recipe really requires one to blend the ingredients stipulated and not merely mechanical knife work. The rempah should not be grainy I thought…too late. I’d realised this only after added the shallots and garlic to the oil.
Anyway, all’s not lost I thought. Just give (B) a quick blitz with the blender, throw it into (A), a quick whizz, add in fish head, simmer a while, followed by (C) and all should be well. Alas, I forgot that tumeric is a yellow staining agent and caused my blender to look jaundiced afterwards! And normal dish detergent doesn’t seem to do the trick. Help! Anyone with a remedy to get rid of tumeric stains?
Alas, the cooking went on, quite smoothly but rather uneventfully. I didn’t smell the usual salivation-inducing aroma of assam fish head after its done.I even give it an additional spritz of lime afterwards. But something’s missing and I just couldn’t quite make out what it is.
It’s not bad really. Just not as good as I’d hoped it would be. Perhaps I should have “super-sized” the rempah ingredients instead to give it more “oomph” factor. Maybe I should have saute the rempah for a bit longer to tease out more flavours. Maybe the tau pok I added soaked up too much sauce. Maybe I shouldn’t have added cauliflower and broccoli. Oh well… too many maybes…
The assam fish head is supposed to be a “one-dish” dinner to go with plain rice, since it includes a bit of everything, vegetables, fish etc. But I also pan-fried some thai fish cakes I bought from NTUC’s frozen food section to go along. Should have read the label more carefully… made with sutchii catfish. Mega yucks…
I didn’t touch the fish-cake after the photos but my family managed to finish it, somehow. At least I still have the assam fish-head to go with the rice. All’s not lost after all. But I think I’ll stick to pre-mixes from now on. At least until I’d mustered enough courage for another adventure like this!