If there is one Nyonya dish that I wish I could make in the United States but couldn’t, this rempah fish or fried fish stuffed with sambal would probably be it.
Why? Because a true and authentic Nyonya rempah fish (‘Hu Chee Rempah” in Penang Hokkien) can only be made with hardtail mackerel, a fish that is not available in the waters here. If you don’t have hardtail mackerel (or “Ngeh Buey” in Hokkien), you simply don’t make rempah fish because other fish will do no justice to this dish and will not deliver the essence, texture, and authentic flavor.
Yes, Nyonya will not compromise when it comes to ingredients used in Nyonya food…
So words can’t even begin to recite how I’ve missed my late mother’s rempah fish, a recipe she had perfected. Her rempah fish was always sublime, with aromatic and moist sambal plus perfect balance of flavors, and let’s not forget about the charred sambal paste oozing out of the fish.
But consider ourselves lucky, my sister-in-law did cook side-by-side with my mother and helped her make rempah fish on countless occasions. I asked her to recreate the dish for this blog and she nailed it.
Here is our recipe for rempah fish—a Penang Nyonya specialty that is well-loved by many Peranakan/Nyonya-Baba families. If you go to Penang, you might find it at economy rice stalls if you are lucky!
How Many Calories Per Serving?
This recipe is only 113 calories per serving.
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- 2 hardtail mackerel, ikan cincaru
- 3 fresh red chilies
- 5 dried chilies
- 10-12 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon belacan
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon tamarind pulp, soak in 1/4 cup water, extract juice and discard pulps
- 1/4 cup oil
- Clean and rinse fish with water. Using a sharp knife, cut a deep slit from the back of the fish along the bone. Repeat the same on the other side of the fish.
- Blend the spice paste with a mini food processor or use mortar and pestle to pound the flavoring paste.
- Heat up wok with 3 tbsp oil, add in spice paste and stir-fry with low heat until aromatic. Add tamarind juice and continue to stir-fry until the spice paste is smooth and somewhat moist, but not overly runny. Season to taste with salt and sugar. Dish out and let cool.
- Stuff the spice paste into the fish on both sides of the slit and also inside the fish stomach.
- Heat up 1/4 cup oil in a wok, deep fry the fish until cooked. Serve immediately.
Serving Size2 people
Amount Per Serving Calories 113Total Fat 64gSaturated Fat 32gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 297mgSodium 1838mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 6gSugar 18gProtein 101g