Spicy Tamarind Flathead Tails
1 hour, 10 minutes
- 16 fillets of flathead tails, scaled, skin on.
- corn flour to coat your fish.
- Rice bran oil (enough to deep fry your fillets in a wok)
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 2-4 red chillies (we like birdseyes, but choose according to your tolerance)
- 2 handfuls of fresh coriander leaves
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of crushed ginger
- 2 spring onions
- 2.5 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
- 1 cucumber
- 1 carrot
- 2 cups thinly sliced savoy (Chinese) cabbage
- 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
- Rinse and dry the flathead tails, then coat them in corn flour and set aside.
- Julienne the carrot, thinly slice the cucumber into long match-like sticks and combine these two ingredients with the thinly sliced cabbage in a bowl. Set aside.
- Cut chillies in half and remove seeds with a teaspoon (don't rub your eyes!). Thinly slice the chilli flesh.
- Crush your garlic and finely chop the spring onions. Chop one handful of your coriander. If you have a food processor, you can blend these into a paste, including the ginger... but it's not necessary. We like it rustic and chunky.
- TO COOK
- Warm sesame oil and a dash of rice bran oil in a skillet. Add chillies, crushed garlic, chopped onion, chopped coriander (remember to save one handful for your garnish) and ginger (or your blended paste, if you've used a food processor). Cook on a medium to high heat until the flavours and aromas start to blend.
- Once the onion and garlic show signs of breaking down (they'll turn translucent), add sugar and fish sauce. Turn up the heat to start thickening your mixture.
- Lastly, add your tamarind paste. Stir and allow to fully mix. Taste. Your sauce should be sweet, spicy and sour all at once. Add sugar, fish sauce or tamarind to achieve the right balance. Water can be used to thin your mixture, if needed, to allow you to keep it simmering. Turn the heat to low and keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally, while you cook the fish.
- Heat about 4cm rice bran oil in a wok. It's ready for your fish when a small piece dropped in sizzles immediately. When it's hot enough, place individual pieces of fish in the oil, skin down. Allow to cook for about thirty seconds before turning. Again, cook for about 30 seconds before turning back to skin-side down. Watch each fillet. The flesh will become whiter as it cooks. Remove each piece when the thickest part is almost easy to pull apart with a fork. Place them on a kitchen paper lined plate.
- Repeat until all fillets are cooked. TIP: fillets will continue to cook once removed from the pan, so remove earlier fillets a little rarer than later fillets, so that the early ones don't over cook.
- Check your sauce. When it has a consistency like honey, it is ready.
- PLATING UP
- Spread your cucumber, carrot and cabbage salad on the plate. Place flathead fillets on the bed of salad before pouring your warm, sticky sauce evenly over the fish. Garnish with bean sprouts and remaining coriander leaves.
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