I was invited into the home of a wonderful Malay cook. It was that type of insanely delicious and simple food you don’t find at a restaurant, even the most authentic ones. There was zero formality given our friendship and all that was ready when I arrived were raw, thick, fresh pieces of sheri filet sitting on the counter. I couldn’t be happier since I knew I was about to learn and of course steal a wonderful recipe. With sleeves rolled up we got started. Everything took a total of 30-40 minutes from start to table.
This is a simple recipe using any white, flaky fish. Stay away from tilapia. It’s over-farmed and can actually be harmful to your health. I tend to use red sea bream or sheri filet. Omitting the last step of adding the fish pieces to a shrimp paste and lemongrass based stock of coconut milk as the calorie count and grams of fat sky rocket. Understandably, It makes the dish rich and even more wonderful but its not a necessity in the least. Feel free to use it in yours.
Don’t get intimidated by the ingredient list, they will be found in any grocery store and become staples in your home. Soy sauce, turmeric and ginger are used in East and South Asian cuisines typically but separately or with two out of the three. My dishes took on a whole new life when all three were combined. And it’s not just for fish. I use this in aromatic rice dishes and poultry.
Common Ingredients Amongst Dishes: (Serves 4)
- 600 grams or approx 1.3 lbs of white fish
- 4-5 celery stalks
- 1 red bell pepper (capsicum)
- 1 yellow bell pepper (capsicum)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger root
- 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder (organic if possible)
- 3 tablespoons light brown soy sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil (olive oil can be used as a substitute in the fish marinade)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- one teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- chopped scallion/green onion
First thing is to marinate the fish. Pat dry with kitchen paper so excess moisture is removed. Place fish on plate or flat surface and put one tablespoon of sesame or olive oil, one teaspoon of turmeric powder, half teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper …rub altogether. Set fish aside and rinse your hands. Yellow fingernails are never attractive.
Next prepare the marinade for the asian celery salad. Put one tablespoon sesame oil, one teaspoon toasted sesame oil, two tablespoons light soy sauce, two tablespoon rice wine vinegar (white vinegar is okay too), two teaspoons brown sugar, one teaspoon finely chopped ginger root, one teaspoon sesame seeds, freshly ground pepper into a bowl. Add two tablespoons chopped scallion/green onion. Mix altogether and let sit.
Chop celery, red pepper, yellow pepper. Pour dressing above onto the veggies and let marinade for 15-20 minutes at least.
Get a medium sized skillet nice and hot. No need to add oil as your fish is already nicely coated. Place fish in skillet and don’t overcrowd, work in batches if you have more than two pieces. Throw in the last teaspoon of finely chopped ginger into the skillet. Cooking time all depends on the thickness of your fish. The ones shown above were thick. I did about 3 minutes each side and then removed it from heat and let it rest. The residual heat will cook through any uncooked center. In the last minute of cooking, spoon over that last tablespoon of light soy sauce. Once out of the pan, squeeze some lemon over the fish and garnish with fresh cilantro. Thats it! Serve with the marinated celery salad.