Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Padang Fish Curry (West Sumatra, Indonesia) & the 411 on Fresh Turmeric

I was debating whether or not I should post this entry, I was a bit reluctant as it is not part of my Mediterranean, Israeli and Indian repertoire, I am such a novice when it comes to Indonesian cooking. I simmer for a long time when I am intrigued, and then I take the plunge. When I visit the sites such as I mentioned in my 'Blog Awards and Happy Year of the Rabbit' post here, you are transformed to different worlds but the feeling is overwhelming when you think to tackle a recipe in your own home, so I get timid and I simmer. One day I decided to take the plunge and went scouring for all the exotic ingredients. It is not too bad, as they were accessible and really only handful that you would not already have.
Key ingredients vary from region to region, depending on different influences, but I could associate and warm up to the idea as coconut milk brought association of Indian cuisine. The chiles in this particular, shall we say 'fish stew' reminded me of a tomato and cilantro base Moroccan fish stew dish, with chiles called Hrayme (spicy Moroccan dish might have other names as well). Many households in Israel have it as a first course for Friday's Shabbat dinner. This is my second Indonesian dish. The first one I made was grilled coconut chicken with lemon basil from Cradle the Flavor by James Oseland, I decided to evolve it into a curry dish instead. I found out coconut milk based recipes are more punctuated the next day so we enjoyed the subtle flavors fresh the first day and the full bodied abundant flavors, the next day, with leftovers. I used light organic coconut milk in both the chicken and this fish stew dish.
Another ingredient I was absolutely mesmerized with and cannot believe I lived without ever using it in its fresh form is turmeric. What a joy to discover this brilliant ingredient, unlike dry turmeric it is very mild in flavor and has an amazingly vibrant color. Much like the ginger root but without the fibrous strands. I was very fortunate to find it in the Asian market fresh not frozen. You can also substitute with dry turmeric spice if you use it in good measure and restraint.  You can find more information on turmeric here.

The Padang Fish Curry recipe is also from James Oseland's Cradle the Flavor I changed things around a bit and sauteed the long chile peppers with the turmeric, shallot mixture instead of adding it at the end. Honestly I like the heat and wanted the chiles to soften and fall apart, but if you don't, it is not even necessary to add the chiles. The dish is plenty flavorful!! You can also make the sauce a day ahead if you wish and cook the fish in it the next day. You can serve this dish with plain Jasmine rice or with Lemongrass-Scented Coconut Rice you can find recipe on James Oseland's site here.
Padang Fish Curry

Ingredients:
8 Small shallots, peeled and quartered
2 Cloves garlic, peeled
1 Piece fresh ginger (about 2/3 to full index finger length), peeled and quartered
1 Piece fresh turmeric (about 2/3 to full index finger length), peeled and quartered
(can substitute with 1/2 teaspoon dry turmeric)

4 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 Stalks fresh lemon grass, green tops and outer leaves removed. Cut into two with a slit alongside the stalk
4 Kaffir lime leaves
1 1/4 Cups unsweetened light coconut milk
1 Teaspoon sugar
3/4 Teaspoon salt
1 1/2 - 2 lbs Tilapia, cod or any white fish. I used fillet but you can use whole
5 Long green chiles (I used 10 mix of long red and green), stemmed and cut a slit a long the length. Do not cut a slit if you do not want too much heat. Also this ingredient can be optional
1/4 Cup of water

Directions:
1. In a food processor put shallots, garlic, turmeric and ginger. Pulse and scrape from edges of processor until paste consistency is reached.
2. Heat up oil on low medium in a large dutch oven. Add paste from food processor, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chiles (chiles you can add now or at end of step three) and sautee while mixing until aromas are released.
3. Add coconut milk and 1/4 cup pf water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for couple minutes longer.
4. Add the fish and cook with lid on for few minutes, the fish will release liquids as well, then take lid off to let liquid evaporate for the rest of cooking time. Total cooking time for fish 10-20 minutes depending if you added fillet or a whole fish.
5. Serve with plain Jasmine rice or Lemongrass Scented Coconut Rice here.

Note: I haven't added Salam leaves which I couldn't find and were optional in the recipe. I also didn't add nuts that were called for in the recipe although I could have subbed with few crushed peanuts instead of the 4 candlenuts (a macademia like nut) called for in the recipe.
As promised translated link to the 411 on Kokum is included now on Machi, Fish Curry with Lemons and the 411 on Kokum post, you can find it here. Thanks Pepy for providing it!

44 comments :

  1. Gosh, this dish is vibrant both in color and flavor. I'm so glad you posted it anyway since it's inspired me to find fresh turmeric. I've only ever used the powder variety so now I'll have to search for it on my next Asian food store run. From the garlic to the lemongrass to the turmeric, it's bursting with freshness! Yum!

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  2. That's really a wonderful recipe Shulie! We too use fresh turmeric for medicinal purposes back in India but never cooked with it. It sure looks gorgeous.

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  3. Shulie, your blog is looking amazing. Your photography is so sharp. This dish is very doable, will have to try, love curry. Not seen tumeric in Miami.

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  4. Your dishes are always mouth-watering and approachable. Another winner on my must-cook list.

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  5. Looks delectable ..... I wish I could grab that dish and hog on with some rice. Luv the different flavors going into the dish.

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  6. I always have candlenuts in my freezer. Eevrytime I buy them, I always toast, cool down and keep them in a jar. Never eat raw calndenuts as these raw ones have laxative effect.

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  7. I've never seen fresh turmeric before! It does look a lot like ginger root but the color inside is much more vibrant. I wonder what other types of cuisines call for fresh turmeric, I usually only see recipes calling for the dried version.

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  8. Congratulations Shulie: What a wonderful success at "enhancing" your already terrific work. I've not used fresh turmeric, but the color is stunning.

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  9. I'm so glad you posted this Shulie! The more curry recipes I see, the more inspired I am to try making it on my own (something that's on my list of things to do in 2011). I'm going to have to try fresh turmeric. Sounds wonderful!

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  10. Shulie, I'm in love with this Indonesian Fish Curry recipe!I also have bought fresh turmeric, which gives a wonderful flavor & color to a curry dish! I love the balance of flavors and of course love James Oseland's book!

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  11. Shulie, I love this post. Everything about it is delightful and the pictures are gorgeous and fresh--just what we need to pull us out of the doldrums of February.

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  12. Wow, this is gorgeous! I haven't been able to track down any fresh turmeric yet, but when I do, I'm coming back for this recipe. I love it!

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  13. Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments. Yes, the turmeric has medicinal qualities, you can check out the wikipedia link for more information. The root bringd such vibrant hue to the dish. I am lost for words to describe it. It is so aromatic and flavorful hope you try it! I find good fish curries are particularly hard to come by so I was happy I found this one. Have a wonderful day everyone!

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  14. This has to be one flavorsome fish curry. I have never used fresh turmeric in cooking. The chili and the lemongrass, and I guess the turmeric too must have imparted a fresh yet earthy flavor.

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  15. As soon as I finished reading your post, I wrote a shopping list for my husband. I love experimenting with different cuisines, and the list of blogs you provided helps immensely:)

    I'll let you if I was as successful as you:)

    Thanks!

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  16. Probably not a good idea to read this post around lunch time. It's making me extremely hungry. Loving all the fresh ingredients you use. Gorgeous post!

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  17. You make me want to paint peppers today! This is beautiful, Shulie! And definitely something for me to try very soon. Lent is less than a month away and I will need your meatless recipes!

    I've never used fresh turmeric before, so another first.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely post!

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  18. What a colorful dish! I have never seen fresh turmeric.

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  19. Thank you all, Annapet would love to see your paintings!! Margaret, happens to me all the time, not wise to look at recipes around lunch tie:). Keep in mind everyone as fab as fresh ingredient is quickly wipe out kitchen counters as it stains:). It did give me nice color on my finger tips, sort of like yellowish Henna (mehndi) :). Lana, you are more adventurous than I...good for you and let me know how it turns out.

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  23. My dear friend, this is gorgeous. Stunning colors. I could taste every thing from the photos. Well, I really can't and wish I were having a plate...with you:)You inspire me to be more daring. Love it!

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  24. Curry with amazing aroma, I love it. Thanks for making delicious food so accessible.

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  25. Shulie, your new design is working out so well! your pictures look incredible, so fresh! I love that you went out of your comfort zone. If you're going to do it, might as well do it hear amongst friends, right?:)

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  26. Thx and anytime Lora!! You are always welcome to a plateful!!Thanks Ken and it is, I cannot believe it took me so long to venture into it. Ethan, Ths! You are absolutely right, I feel safe among friends. You guys all are incredibly supportive any time of the day when happy or gloomy and that means the world!! Love you all my friends. Shulie

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  27. I have been telling Pepy I will venture into Indonesian cooking soon for a while now. As u said, getting out of your comfort zone can be intimating. But looking at your beautiful recipe I'm one step closer to exploring it!

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  28. Shulie, I've been dreaming of your fish curry since I first laid my eyes on it! I think I will be making it for dinner tomorrow, it will be just the thing for the rain that has returned to SF. Warmth and brightness in a flavorful dish, I can't wait!

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  29. I am so happy that you did post this beautiful, colorful and I bet very flavorful dish. I use tumeric a lot. It adds such a beautiful color to meals.

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  30. Thx Kulsum! Do it! The fresh turmeric is a bit different than the dried spice in the dish. Just paints it a different hue and depth, very mild in comparison to dry.Thx Liren, it was pretty nic eto have it for V-Day and leftovers th enext day. Let me know if you do and how do you like it? Thx Marla, you are always so gracious! Turmeric is wonderful isn't it?!

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  31. Beautiful! I love South East Asian curries and such delightful flavors. Really mouthwatering and refined.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  32. I love the colors of curried dishes.. this sounds and looks phenomenal.. I'm always intimidated with the exotic spices. I think I need to be more adventurous though and give them a try!

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  33. I made this curry the night before and it was everything it promised to be: simple, flavorful, and satisfying. I added several whole Thai chilis which added just a hint of spice (I was afraid that the spice could be too overwhelming for my girls if I cut the chilis).
    The balance of the flavors was amazing, and the pale yellow color imparted by turmeric (I used dry) made the dish really beautiful.
    I am sending this recipe to my daughter in Berkeley - it would be a quick, easy and tasty meal for her.
    Thanks, Shulie:)

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  34. What a beautiful dish and such gorgeous color. I have not worked with fresh turmeric, but I intend to now :)

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  35. What a beautiful, colorful, delicious looking dish!!!

    Great blog; happy I found you!

    Mary xx
    Delightful Bitefuls

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  36. Thanks Rosa, indeed it was such a treat. Evan, thanks! No need to be intimidated. It is hard to believe but this dish is so simple, Lana will testify to that. Thanks Lana, I am happy you tried and approve. Now I will be curious about your daughter's thoughts. Thanks @magicofspice once you do you will want to find other dishes with fresh turmeric as an ingredient. Thanks Mary the feeling is mutual!

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  37. i am DYING to make this one Shulie - in fact, after our tweets this afternoon, am putting it on our 'must make' very soon - maybe our Anniversary which is coming up fast!! you always, always, ALWAYS have such FABULOUS FOOD!! xo

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  38. This is such a beautiful dish, and the ingredient list is even more so. I'm not sure I've seen fresh turmeric -- ever so need to check out the Asian market next time I'm there. Like you, I simmer when trying to decide about making a dish I'm not sure of. It's the best kind of simmer, isn't it? Thanks for a lovely Sunday morning read.

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  39. Thank you Debra and I know it is now your anniversary so Happy Anniversary my friend!
    Thank you Kelly!! True best kind and I must say fresh turmeric is my all time favorite find!! :)

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  40. What beautiful and vibrant photos! I love all foods Asian and have James Oseland's cookbook. I've made a few dishes from it, but you have just inspired me to take another look with this Padang Fish Curry dish. Love it!

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  41. this looks so good! i love this dish. thank you for sharing this.

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  42. This looks amazing. The way you write your recipes and explain the details is very helpful.

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  43. Thank you Jeanette. Isn't it an incredible well researched book?! I love it!! Let me know once you make it.:) Thanks you @blackbookkitchendiaries my pleasure! Thanks Arthur, nic eto get your feedback sometimes I wonder, so it's a relief to know. Thanks!!

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  44. i love Indonesian cuisine for its great taste.

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