Holy Mackerel: Assam Fish + REFRIED CHIPS

Posted by Dani (@dani_sunario), Melbourne.

*Note: Aside from the title, I have decided that fish puns cod get out of hand and are a little overkrill (sorryyyyyy), so i’ve decided to stray away from them for the rest of this post before I get lost in a punderamic sea and lose all sense of porpoise, and all you lovely readers become turtley disfinterested.

I dolphinitely think I have a prawnblem.

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Ok fin, I’ll stop now.

Assam fish was one of my favourite dishes as a child. I always recall my mother saying that the sourness of the assam helped overcome a lack of appetite whenever I was ill. I just think the dish was so delicious that it always left you wanting more. As you’ve probably realised by now, eating was not only a necessity, it was also my favourite competitive sport as a child.

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The fish is prepared and cooked separately, so that it is crispy and retains it’s texture when added to the sauce. This recipe calls for small fish, so they’re perfect for individual portions. 

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I got the idea for refried chips while watching Shane Delia’s latest cooking show, Spice Journey, on SBS. Of course, his recipe used more Middle Eastern based flavours (as you can see I still retained the sumac from his version, because sumac is motherflippin’ delicious), but I realised that my whole life up until this point has been a huge lie and I’VE BEEN DOING IT WRONG THIS WHOLE TIME. Unless you’re ridiculously haggard and/or incapable of being trusted near a flame, there is no way you will ever want to eat plain, boring, deep fried potato chips EVER AGAIN.

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Assam is traditionally a balance of hot and sour. This recipe has a pretty even balance, but alter the ratio of tamarind : chilli if you feel inclined.

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I added a side of Pickled Cucumber (first seen in this Korean-inspired recipe here) to freshen up the dish and cut through the oil of the chips and fried fish. Think of this as a simple, quick, Asian-inspired version of your classic fish and chips.

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You could just as easily serve the fish traditionally with rice, but WHY WOULD YOU, YOU BIG SILLY?

REFRIED. CHIPS.

REFRIED.

CHIPS.

SERIOUSLY.

Get on board this double fried potato train before no-one else does and somebody finds me lying on the floor in a puddle of deliciously flavoursome refried chips and shame.*

*If you ever do find me in this position, I won’t blame you for snacking around me.

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Assam Fish with Refried Chips
Serves 4

1/2 Continental Cucmber
1 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
1 large pinch sea salt flakes

Rempah:
10 shallots, peeled and halved
3 red chillies (use smaller ones if you want to turn up the heat, yeah)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2cm piece of ginger, peeled
3 tablespoons tamarind pulp
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only
1 teaspoon sugar
neutral oil, for frying

1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon chilli powder
4 tablespoons plain flour
4 small mackarel, or other small white-fleshed fish, gutted
1 tomato, sliced into wedges
Store-bought thick cut chips, to serve four
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 large chillies, sliced thinly
3/4 teaspoon sumac
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or chilli flakes
1/3 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons fried shallots
Coriander, to serve
2 limes
olive oil

For the Pickled Cucumber:
De-seed the cucumber and using a vegetable peeler, thinly peel into strips. Leave to macerate in a bowl with a large pinch of salt to draw out the moisture. After 10-15 minutes, rinse the salt off the cucumber with water and squeeze out excess moisture. Combine with rice vinegar.

For the Rempah:
Combine all ingredients in a mortar and pestle or food processor and blend until it resembles a thick paste. Fry with a little neutral oil on a medium heat, stirring to combine until paste is fragrant. Add half of the tomato and simmer for another five minutes or until tomatoes are cooked.

For the Fish:
Meanwhile, combine cornflour, flour, salt and chilli powder in a shallow tray or plate, and coat fish thoroughly. Shallow fry in neutral oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until flour is cooked off, the fish is golden brown, and is firm to touch. Set aside to drain on paper towel.

Serve the fish with Assam sauce, pickled cucumber, fresh coriander, extra fresh tomato, sliced chillies, lime wedges, and refried chips.

For the Refried Chips:
In a small amount of olive oil, fry sliced garlic and chilli until fragrant. Add slivered almonds, moving around the pan so as not to let the burn. Add the chips, and season with salt (if they haven’t already been a-salt-ed), sumac, fried shallots, chilli powder, and lime juice. Freshen up with leaves of fresh coriander and serve with the fish.

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