When I was at the wet market a week before Chinese New Year, staring at a Chinese silver pomfret (or tau tai chong) which cost more than RM100, my eyes gazed upon a black promfret of a similar size next to it (and it was going for just RM14.50)! :O What??...that's only about 10% of the price of the white pomfret! I thought I could make sweet sour fish for the reunion makan.
On reaching home, I realised I may have jumped the gun a little. I can't serve a black pomfret for the CNY reunion dinner as the colour wouldn't be very auspicious for the new year now, would it? ;P Not that I believe in such traditional customs and beliefs but I also do not wish to upset the elderly and those who do believe.
The fish obviously didn't make it to the reunion table...and that's how I ended up with a black pomfret in my freezer....which I had to get rid of by cooking it for our own consumption. So, this is my take on Black Pomfret in Black Sauce a la Malay-style, or otherwise known as Ikan (Bawal Hitam) Masak Kicap.
1 large black pomfret
1 red onion, half cut into rings & half sliced
3 red (or green) chillies, deseeded and cut lengthwise
2 shallots, coarsely shredded
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely shredded
1 inch of ginger, coarsely shredded
1 small tomato, cut into wedges
1 bunch of spring onion, cut into 2-inch lengths
Oil (for frying the fish)
For the sauce:
1/4 tbsp dark soy
1/2 tbsp light soy
1/2 tbsp dark sweet soy (or kicap manis)
3/4 tbsp (bottled) chilli sauce
1/2 cup water
A pinch of salt
Pat dry the pomfret and make three slits on either side of the fish. You can also substitute the bawal hitam with ikan kembong, ikan selar, ikan tenggiri or ikan tongkol (whichever fish you fancy). Rub the fish with salt and turmeric powder (and let it marinade for a few minutes). Just remember not to do it on your cutting board (do it on a stainless steel or ceramic plate instead) as turmeric stains just about everything.
Prepare the aromatics and vegetables. Coarsely shred the garlic, shallots and ginger for use as aromatics. Deseed the red chillies and cut lengthwise. Cut half a red onion into rings and slice the remaining half for the aromatics. Cut the tomato into wedges and the spring onion into 2-inch lengths.
Pour out the excess oil (used for frying the fish) and leave about 2 tbsp of oil to saute your aromatics (of garlic, shallots, onions and ginger).
Once the onions are translucent and soft, make a sauce with all the ingredients listed above for the sauce. Add a pinch of salt as the kicap manis brings quite a bit of sweetness to the sauce.
When the sauce comes to a simmer, do a taste test and adjust the seasoning at this point until you're happy with it. Add in the onions (that have been cut into rings), red (or green) chillies (can also be substituted with fiery cili api if you like your sauce more spicy) and tomato wedges.
Simmer for a good 5 minutes until the onions and tomatoes are nicely soft and everything is combined. Let the sauce reduce and thicken slightly. Add in the spring onions at the last minute.
As we all know, the meat of the black pomfret is more compact and drier than white pomfret (which is usually steamed to enjoy its smooth and flaky texture).
The texture and taste of the meat isn't all that bad as long as you get your hands on a really fresh bawal hitam. And we can't dismiss the fact that it's a truly affordable fish to eat. A black pomfret of this size can easily feed a family-of-four.
The black pomfret also tends to have a fishier smell compared to white pomfret, so it works best with a robustly-flavoured sauce like this one. Or you can also make a version of ikan masak kicap pedas with some freshly blended chilli paste.
I may have gone 'overboard' with the veggies a little but you can't deny that the abundance of it makes it a perfect one-dish meal with rice....got fish, got veggie, got sauce...what else you want-lah....kekeke! ^o^