Hed Chef: Tom yum-inspired spice paste
Store-bought paste offers convenience but I get a kick out of making my own concoctions.
In return for the time and effort, you can avoid the use of artificial flavouring and preservatives. You also get to control the amount of salt or sugar.
This week, I am sharing a recipe for a tom yum-inspired spice paste which I use to stuff a black pomfret for grilling.
If you like a sharper tang, increase the quantity of tamarind juice.
Drizzle coconut oil on the fish for extra flavour.
Store the excess paste in a glass jar in the fridge. If kept properly, it should easily keep for up to two weeks.
- 1 black pomfret
- 2 tbsp of coconut oil
- 2 pieces of banana leaves
- 4 toothpicks, soaked in water
- 1 level tsp salt
- 80g dried chillies
- 60g dried prawn, soaked
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, de-stemmed
- 250g shallots
- 50g garlic cloves
- 50g galangal, chopped
- 50g ginger, chopped
- 4 lemongrass stalks
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp belacan powder
- 3 tbsp tamarind pulp (assam jawa)
- 250ml water
- 2 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
1. Remove the stems of the dried chillies. Boil until softened. Discard water and rinse the chillies.
2. Peel and discard the outer two layers of the lemongrass stalks. Use only 5cm of the white root part and slice it.
3. Soak the tamarind pulp in 250ml of water. Strain, reserving the liquid (tamarind juice).
4. Grind the galangal, ginger, lemongrass stalks, dried prawn, chillies, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, garlic, coriander powder, belacan powder, tamarind juice, palm sugar and salt.
5. Heat the four tablespoons of cooking oil. Add the spice paste and reduce the heat to medium-low. Fry over medium-low to low heat until the spice paste thickens and the oil rises to the surface. (A)
6. Remove from pan and let it cool.
7. Blanch the banana leaves to soften them. After blanching, leave them to cool and wipe dry.
8. Rinse and pat dry the black pomfret.
9. Make two curved incisions on each side of the fish. (B)
10. Rub salt on the fish, including in the stomach cavity.
11. Place in a bowl four tablespoons of the fried spice paste, to be used to stuff the fish.
12. Trim the edges of the banana leaves. Layer the leaves on a clean flat surface.
13. Place the fish on the banana leaves. Stuff the fish with the fried spice paste. Drizzle the coconut oil over both sides of the fish. (C)
14. Wrap the fish by folding over the top and bottom edges of the banana leaves. Secure the sides with toothpicks.
15. Heat a flat-bottomed pan and place the wrapped fish in it. Fry over medium-low heat for 35min to 40min, or until the fish is cooked.