One day my husband came home from work bringing 2 mackerel fishes. To be honest, I am not a fish eater. First, because I hate scaling and gutting them myself while I think fishmongers never clean enough the fishes I buy from them. There are always scales left and It's just so annoying when I bite my fish and I get scales in my mouth. Second, I think fish are tasteless. Most of the time when I ordered fish dish in the States, they are usually deep fried. While I like fried food but I would rather eat something else. Some Chinese seafood are delicious, but they are still at the mild side. I love sushi and sashimi off course. Third, I hate those bones! I always manage to choke on one or two!
Indonesian seafood on the other hand are always so tasty! We use tons of seasonings in it. I love Ujung Pandang grill fish, with palm sugar, lime , chilies and green cherry tomatoes for the sauce/dip. It just hard to get green cherry tomatoes unless I grow them myself in the summer time specifically for making this dish. And only when my mom is here to make it for me! She is not a great cook, but this is her specialty dish !
So when I tried to think of how am I going to cook this mackerels. I only can think Indonesian way. Full of flavour!
Sure I went first to my cooking library. I found several Japanese recipe on cooking this fish with miso, but I tried it before and I am not that impress with it. I went to search for some recipe from internet but again nothing there. So I am back to my classic childhood dish. It's called "Pepes Ikan". Ikan means fish. Pepes is a way of cooking where you slather the fish with the seasonings made with so many stuff, then you wrap the fish with ...ideally banana leaves ( it has better flavour ), or in my case aluminium foil which cause a little accident to my finger last night ( ouch! ). Then if you use banana leaves you can grill the fish. But in my case I just use my oven at 375F until the fish is done, about 45 minutes.
I will try to translate the recipe as best as I could. This is hard for me since I rarely cook Indonesian food.
1 lb fish
1 lime juice ( kaffir lime is best )
NOTE: Kaffir lime is smaller than Limes that are sold in the States/Canada, so if you use lime ( I do ), use half is enough.
1 tsp salt
30 sweet basil leaves
(I don't have them so I omit them all together and use 6 curry/salam leaves instead)
banana leaves or aluminium foil
6 big red chilies ( more for color and flavour than for the heat )
1 tsp salt
8 candle nuts, toasted in a wok/oven ( I think you can substitute it with macadamia nuts, they are both creamy )
3 slices of ginger
a tiny piece fresh tumeric
Don't have fresh tumeric? You can use powder of you can omit if all together
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp tamarind pulp
1 medium size tomato
1 lemongrass, use the white part only !
How to make:
1. Gutted and clean the fish then rub the lime juice and the salt all over the fish, including the inside.
2. Throw all of the seasonings into a food processor and processed them until they turn into a smooth paste. Taste it and make sure they taste salty enough and has a little sour taste to it. If it is too sour, add sugar. It may taste very strong to you because of the raw shallots and garlic but trust me, after they are cooked, they will mellow considerably.
3. Place the fish on an aluminium foil then slatther the fish all over with the seasoning paste( under the fish, inside the fish, and on top of the fish ). Close it tightly then poke several holes with your knifes on the top part of the fish package so that the steam can come out and the fish will not be too soggy. This is because when you use banana leaves and you grill the fish, the paste is going to dry up and cling to the fish. So to achieve this with using aluminium foil, I poke several holes on the top.
4. Place the fish in the oven at 375F for about 45 minutes.
When you finally eat this fish, the fish should be moist, the seasoning is not too wet and they will cling to the fish skin and it should taste nutty, salty and a little sour with a little heat to it! Try it, it's delicious!
You can substitue the fish with shelled raw shrimps too.
Boy... typing this Indonesian recipe takes more time than if I type 3 western cuisine recipes because I have to look for the English names for the ingredients!