Gulai kiam hu kut
I tasted gulai kiam hu kut (salted fish bone curry) for the first time in Penang.
Madam Tan Thean Nee, 67, a babysitter, showed me how to cook this curry the way her late mother taught her.
Salted fish curry is a dish that is very much part of Penang's food culture.
Madam Tan uses salted fish head bones in her recipe.
I couldn't find any in Singapore, so I settled for salted fish bones which you can find at some wet market provision shops.
Rinse the salted fish bones and soak them to remove the excess salt, or you may find the resulting curry too salty.
In my version, I add a little tamarind juice as I like a tart edge to the curry.
Madam Tan uses fairly large sea prawns in her curry. I do the same.
I leave the shells on because the shells impart more flavour to the curry and also help prevent the prawns from getting overcooked.
Madam Tan says she sometimes adds fried tau kwa to the curry. It depends on your taste and preference.
INGREDIENTS (SERVES 8 TO 10)
- 280g salted fish bones, rinse and soak for 15 minutes
- 8 prawns
- 8 long beans
- Half a pineapple, sliced into bite-sized chunks
- 2 brinjals, cut into chunks
- 2 tbsp tamarind pulp mixed with 3 tbsp water (strain and reserve the tamarind juice)
- 400ml coconut milk
- 1000ml water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp cooking oil
INGREDIENTS FOR REMPAH (SPICE PASTE)
- 30g dried chillies, deseeded and blanched until softened
- 5 fresh chillies
- 250g shallots
- 20g galangal
- 20g ginger
- 2 lemongrass stalks (use 5cm of the white root part)
- 15g fresh turmeric root
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp belacan powder
- 2 tbsp fish curry powder
1. Grind up the ingredients for the spice paste. If you are using a blender, add a little water to help the blender blades rotate smoothly.
2. Heat the oil in a wok to medium-low. Add the spice paste and fry over low heat until fragrant and dry. (A)
3. Add the salted fish bones. Stir-fry (B)
4. Add the pineapple. Stir-fry.
5. Add the long beans followed by the brinjal. Stir-fry. (C)
6. Add 200ml of the coconut milk. Stit-fry until the coconut milk is absorbed into the mixture.
7. Add the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the tamarind juice.
8. Add the prawns and remaining coconut milk and bring to a boil. Simmer until prawns are cooked through.
9. Season with sugar.
10. Serve hot.