An improvement of the kaffir lime salsa that I served with fried chicken last year, this kaffir lime, onion, tomato and mango salsa has finely chopped bird’s eye chilies and cilantro for added flavor.
Last night’s dinner was cooked by Alex. Bangus (milkfish) back fillets, salsa and whipped butter sauce. Made from local ingredients. The kaffir limes and chilies are from our garden. She had done an earlier version of this dish with bangus belly fillets (she’s practicing for a culinary certification exam). From the point of view of my mouth, tongue and taste buds, I like the earlier version better, but then again I am partial to fish belly. I like the fat in it. From a visual perspective, however, this newer version with bangus back fillets look cleaner and more appetizing.
What’s with the obsession with visuals? A reader emailed me asking about the leaner look of the food photos. The all-white plates and bowls, and flat white background. I’m using a light box to shoot food photos these days. It’s rainy season. I got tired of playing hide-and-seek with the sun. I got even more tired of not being able to photograph dishes cooked after sundown. The lighting in our house is not really ideal for taking food photos. After sunset, or when it rains during the day, taking food photos is excluded from the agenda. As a result, there have been so many dishes that I failed to document. The light box solves the problem. Even dishes cooked and drinks mixed at midnight can now be photographed.
The minimalist look, however, is incidental. When the light box was delivered a couple of weeks ago, I experimented a little. Three backgrounds came with it—white, black and beige. I haven’t used the black and beige backgrounds yet but I have discovered that, with a stark white background and white tableware, the colors of the food just come alive. Less visual distraction.
But all that, of course, is just an aside. This is about the kaffir lime, onion, tomato and mango salsa. No, not the fish. It’s just fish seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged in flour, dipped in egg, coated with bread crumbs and fried. No need for a recipe for something as simple as that.
The salsa, however, demands that it be written about with loving detail. Gee, the first mouthful will make you gasp. You’ll feel like grabbing the entire serving bowl so you can have it all to yourself. So good. It is a cooked salsa. The vegetables are chopped and sauteed with fish sauce to coax out their natural juices. Off the heat, cubes of fresh mangoes are stirred in. Just before serving, a sprinkle of sliced cilantro on top.
- 1 large onion
- 5 to 6 tomatoes
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaves
- 1 to 2 bird's eye chilies
- 1 teaspoon cilantro finely chopped (use the stems; reserve the leaves for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- patis (fish sauce) to taste
- pepper to taste
- juice of one kaffir lime (you may want more)
- 1 to 2 fresh ripe mangoes cut into small cubes
- cilantro (the leaves) for garnish
Peel and finely chop the onion.
Halve the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and discard. Chop the flesh.
Roll the kaffir lime leaves, cut into fine slices then chop.
Finely chop the chilies. Tip: For milder heat, scrape off and discard the seeds.
Heat the cooking oil in a pan.
Saute the onion, tomatoes, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and cilantro stems with a dash of fish sauce and a pinch of pepper. Keep the heat on medium low. Stir often. When the vegetables soften, turn off the heat.
Stir the kaffir lime juice into the salsa. Taste. Add more fish sauce and pepper, if needed.
Transfer the salsa to a bowl. Toss in the mango cubes. Let sit for a few minutes. Taste once more and adjust the seasonings. Depending on the level of sweetness of the mangoes, you may want to add more kaffir lime juice for balance. Sprinkle torn or roughly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish.
Serve the kaffir lime, onion, tomato and mango salsa with any grilled or fried meat, poultry or seafood.