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

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

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!