There’s a firm favourite fish amongst the Malays from the ladies side. Most men I know do not like this fish. It has quite a strong smell but once cooked, it’s delicious. It has a firm flesh, the skin a bit tough so you can’t eat the crispy skin. You’ve got to peel the out skin first after cooking to enjoy the firm sweet meaty flesh.
In Malay, this fish is called cencaru and even the local fishmongers know that it’s well liked by the Malays and not so by the other races. If not why would he tempt me by calling out just as I was walking or if the supermarket, ‘Ikan cencaru nak tak?’ (Do you want this cencaru fish?’ Haven’t eaten this fish in years, I caved and walked back to him, and before I knew it, I had three fish in my hand.
It’s best eaten fried or baked with sambal or soy sauce chilli padi dip. I made the first version, or rather got the Helper to do so for me.
We first made the sambal paste together and cooked the sambal through. After that, slit the top part of the fish and stuff as much sambal as you can. Before this, we seasoned the fish with salt and ground turmeric. And then bake. My kitchen smelled of fish! But afterwards, when the fish was done and the house smelled normal again, we both enjoyed eating the fish with hot plain rice. It’s a kampong favourite and us so modern in our sanitized public apartments have forgotten to appreciate the foods of the past.
1. blend soft already boiled down dried chillies (about 20 pieces) with three onions and four cloves of garlic till very fine.
2. Fry over medium heat till cooked.
3. Add a bit of tamarind paste, salt and sugar to taste. The sambal should be sweet and tangy.