In Malaysia, this pan-fried fish dish is typically made with stingray filets, but any six to ten-inch whole fish will do. This recipe first appeared in our October 2011 issue along with Jayanthi Daniel's article Hungry City.
- 1 1⁄4 oz. tamarind paste
- 2 tbsp. small dried shrimp, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, drained
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 red Holland chile, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 cup canola oil
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. dried shrimp paste
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 1⁄2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 2 small branzino, black sea bass, or bluefish (about 12 oz. each), gutted and cleaned
- 2 lime wedges, for serving
Bring tamarind and ½ cup water to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring until paste is dissolved; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl, discard solids, and set tamarind sauce aside. Put shrimp, garlic, chile, and onion in a small food processor, and process until smooth; set chile mixture aside.
Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; add dried shrimp paste, and, using a spoon, mash paste with oil. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chile mixture; cook, stirring, until mixture is no longer raw, 4-6 minutes. Add tamarind sauce, sugar, paprika, chili sauce, and salt, and cook, stirring, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer chile paste to a bowl.
Wipe skillet clean, add remaining oil, and return to high heat. Using a spoon, stuff fish cavities with chile paste, and season with salt and pepper. Fry fish in skillet, turning once, until cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Squeeze lime over fish.