Since servings of highly spiced dishes do not have to be large, this will serve 8 people comfortably, with the fish steaks cut into quarters along the natural divisions.
2 steaks Spanish mackerel
or other firm white fish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 peeled shallots or 2 small onions
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh galangal
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chilli
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon grass
or 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
oil for shallow frying
2 tablespoons tamarind liquid
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons palm sugar
Season the fish steaks with salt and pepper and set aside while preparing the spice mixture.
Pound in mortar and pestle, or grind in electric blender the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, chilli and lemon grass. Add a little water if necessary to facilitate blending.
Heat a heavy frying pan with sufficient oil to cover base of pan. Fry the fish steaks until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a dish, divide each one into quarters and discard the bones.
Pour off oil, leaving about 2 tablespoons. Add the ground mixture and fry, stirring, until the fragrance mellows and oil shimmers on top. Add tamarind liquid, soy sauce and palm sugar. Stir and simmer until sauce is thick, then return fish pieces to pan and coat with the piquant sauce. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)