By itself, fried fish does not excite me. But pair fried fish with a good sauce and I get an adrenalin rush. Cooked with tamarind paste, palm sugar, lemongrass and chilies, this fried fish with spicy tamarind sauce is sweet and sour and totally delicious.
We had a pack of bangus (milkfish) belly fillets in the freezer and it was the fastest thing to thaw for lunch today. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, we’re out of fresh vegetables except for the basics and the potted herbs that Speedy has been monitoring, oh, so closely these days. I browsed the web a bit combining “fish” with different keywords, I landed on a website called Thai Table and I found the perfect recipe for my bangus belly fillets.
Based on a recipe from Thai Table.
- 2 whole bangus belly fillets about 800 grams
- 4 tablespoons tapioca starch or corn or potato starch
- 1 cup vegetable cooking oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 4 shallots or 1 large onion
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 2 bird’s eye chilies
- 1 tablespoon patis (fish sauce)
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar (brown sugar is an okay substitute)
- 2 tablespoons tamarind paste
- 1 bell pepper any color, or half of a large one, cut into strips (optional)
- fresh greens to garnish (cilantro, mint and Thai basil are all good choices)
Heat the cooking oil.
Rinse the fish. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Sprinkle with salt. Dredge in starch.
Fry until a light crisp golden crust forms. Scoop out and set aside. Keep warm.
With a mortar and pestle (or a blender or food processor), process the garlic, shallots (or onion), lemongrass and chilies to a paste.
Pour off the cooking oil from the pan leaving only about two tablespoonfuls.
Reheat the cooking oil. Over medium heat, gently cook the paste with the fish sauce, sugar and tamarind paste until separate from the oil. It’ll take about ten minutes with occasional stirring.
Add the bell pepper strips, cook for another 30 seconds, taste, adjust the seasonings if needed.
Pour the sauce over the fried fish. Garnish with torn greens and serve with rice.