1. Okay, this is the first story.
I have heard many good things about my driver's wife cooking skill. One of her specialty is processing a milkfish into one special dish. If you have ever eat a milkfish, you know that yes, this fish meat has a very delicious taste naturally. But with that taste, it is also accompany by many many bones! I really find it difficult to enjoy milk fish because I hate picking up their bones! The only 2 ways that I know on how to cook this fish so that I don't have to deal with their bones are these:
- Put the already seasoned milkfish into a pressure cooker, later you can deep-fried it.
- This is the hardest part, there is a dish called Otak-Otak Bandeng ( Stuffed Milkfish ), let me explain it more.While putting a milkfish into a pressure cooker sounds simple enough, this is not applied to Otak-Otak Bandeng.
The specific recipes on how to season the fish is a bit hazy for me since I do not dare to even try to make this dish. What I heard from Djo was, his wife will gently hit or tap the fish's body evenly until all of the small bones and even the big bones are all broken down! But she has to do this gently so she won't break the skin. Then she will squeeze out all of the fish meat and bones that already smashed into a pulp through the fish's neck area until there is nothing left in there! Amazing enough? Wait... then she will mixed all of that meat with some seasoning like maybe shallots, ginger, garlic etc. She mixed them very well first and make sure that there is not a single bones that is still left in that mixture that is big enough to poke your throat. Completely smooth texture. Then she will gently hold the fish and scoop those filling back through the same fish neck area without breaking the skin at all! All of this process can take more than 3 hours per fish! Then she steam them. You can eat them right after it's steamed or you can deep-fried it in pieces before you eat. Djo's preference is to dip pieces of the fish into an egg first before deep-fried them in hot oil. Most Indonesian enjoy to eat this dish accompanied by sweet soy sauce and chilies.
So when one day I told Djo that I would love to see his wife cooking this dish, this is what he did: He sent his oldest son to catch milkfish from the milkfish fishing farm first ( very fresh, guaranteed! ) then he asked his wife to made them for me. If one fish can take about 3 hrs to make, she made me 2, you do the math ...
Pic: See that the fish's skin is intact even though it has been through a "beatings" of 3 hrs.
Pic: Check out the filling of Otak-Otak Bandeng.
NOTE: You can also cook milkfish by smoking it. This dish is called Smoked Milkfish
If you dare to try to make this dish, I include the recipe that I found on a website here:
- 1 whole bandeng (milkfish) or substitute sea bass or mackerel (about 700 g)
- 6 tbs. grated coconut, fried in a dry pan until golden brown and pounded till fine
- 100 ml thick coconut milk from ¾ coconut
- 2 eggs, beaten
- banana leaves, or substitute foil
- 2 tsp. coriander seeds
- 6 shallots
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 candlenuts
- 1 cm fresh gangale (lengkuas)
- 2 tsp. sugar
- salt to taste
- Scale and gut the fish through the gills. Wash the fish inside and out and dry thoroughly with kitchen towel paper.
- Carefully pound the fish with the flat of a large knife. Massage it hard all over in order to release the meat from the skin.
- Remove the backbone of the fish but leave tail and head in place: bend the tail towards the head until you feel the bone snap. Carefully pull out the bone through the gill-opening. Take care not to break the skin anywhere.
- Press out all the meat through the gill-opening by pressing the fish with a spoon from the tail-end towards the head.
- Turn over the skin by pushing the tail towards the head. Remove the bones then push the tail back through the head opening. Flake the meat and fry in a dry pan for a few minutes, then remove all the tiny bones from the meat. Mix the meat with the grated coconut, coconut milk, beaten eggs and the pounded Spice-paste. Blend till smooth. The consistency should be like soft butter.
- Put the stuffing back inside the fish through the gill-opening. Sew up the opening after stuffing the fish. Wrap in a banana leaf and secure the ends. Steam until done, approximately 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and grill over a barbecue or in the oven until brown before serving.
Note: Choose a freshly caught milkfish, because the skin would tear easily in a fish that has been lying around for a while.
Make 3-4 servings.
Second story is about a specialty dish from Tuban, a small town near the sea . So far, I know there are 2 dishes that are famous from this town. One is made with squid's ink. The other is frog's eggs mixed with frog's internal organ such as intestines, and even that part that can blow like balloon ( vocal sacs ) and it's vocal cord too ( larynx ). This dish is called Pepes Telur Kodok ( Telur= eggs, Kodok=frog )!
Sounds scary, but after refusing to try this dish for the past 20 years or more, I decide, hey... if those people can eat live bugs on Fear Factors, I should be able to eat this dish! Plus, so far I have never seen my mom get sick from eating this dish. She loves this dish. So yeah... as disgusting as it sounds, I took a bite of this dish. Guess what? They are not bad .... As long as I can block the mental image of the frog internal organs and the slimy eggs, I too can enjoy this dish. So far I have eaten this Pepes Telur Kodok 2 times.... Oh yeah, first the cook mixed all of that scary frog's parts with her seasoning ( I have no clue what they are! ) then she wrap them inside banana leaves and BBQ it on hot charcoal.
Pic: The Frog "what-ever" is wrapped in banana leaf and then grill on top of hot charcoal.
Pic: This is what it looks like inside that banana leaf package.
I wish you can hear my conversation with my mom when I tried this dish for the first time. The conversation was like this:
Me: While munching on this Pepes Telur Kodok, I said " What is this hard stuff that poking my mouth? "
Mom: " Ah...that's just the frog's vocal cord "
Me: Still munching, I said "What part is this that has slight crunch to it?"
Mom: " Oh, that is the frog's part that can blow up like a balloon! And if you found the part that is a bit jelly texture, that would be the egg parts ..."
By then I ran out of things to ask because I was trying very hard to block the mental image of those slimy eggs out of my brain ....
NOTE: Indonesian also loves to snack on deep-fried frog skin. It's crispy with a little bit salty taste to it. It's like eating chips or crackers.
I could not, for the love of food , to find a recipe for this dish on the internet. So if one of you can find it, please feel free to email it to me and I will post it on this entry...with your name as the contributor below it! And a lot of thank you from me to your help.
So those are my 2 food stories for the day.
For extra recipe, I also included ( again , I found this info throught my research on the internet ) a recipe on how to smoke a milkfish, or any other fish.
Unfortunately the website doesn't allow me to copy and paste it into my blog, so if you are interested in finding out how to smoke a milkfish, feel free to check this site on your own. It even has some drawings on it. For non-Indonesian, I am sorry to say that this site is written in Bahasa Indonesia.
HOW TO SMOKE A MILKFISH
Another recipe again on how to cook milkfish, but again, it's in Bahasa Indonesia, on making Bandeng Kremes. It sounds interesting to me. The recipe is below:
For recipe on how to make Bandeng Presto in Bahasa Indonesia, you can see it here:
For the English version, I will try to translate it as best as I can here too ( am I good or not? ) , so here is my version:
Pressure Cooked Milkfish
1 kg fresh milkfish ( this is for one recipe ) -- just gut the fish, but leaf the scales intact for protection against the high pressure.
6 cloves of garlic
3 cm old/matured turmeric
4 tsp salt
1 L of water
Banana leaves to covered the bottom of the pressure cooker pot ( maybe because it's easier to clean up after cooking? or maybe to make the fish skin can't stick to the bottom of the pot )
- If it is up to me, I think I will put the garlic, and the turmeric first into a blender until they are finely chopped, then I will add salt and water and blend it really well until it's completely liquified.
- Place the banana leaves first, then the fish and then pour the liquid that you just made in the blender into the pressure cooker pot.
- Cook the fish for 20 minutes from the point where the pressure cooker start to whistle. The time before it whistle doesn't count! Cool it down and take the fish out ( gently if I were you! )
- Fried the milkfish.
- On making the dipping sauce, I will use chopped raw chilies mixed in Indonesian sweet soy sauce and squirt some lime in it for extra zing!
NOTE: On that Indonesian recipe, the cook mention that there is no differences in time when you cook for one fish or 3, so might as well make a lot of them. With one question in my mind though, how can we fit in that many fish into our pressure cooker? Mine is too small ...