Men in our family just don’t get tamarind. I never really understand why. This is one of my mother’s home cooked fish dish that I terribly love and they horribly can’t stand. I suspect that this is the case because the soup base is too sourish and the fishes are too tiny with equally small bones. It is another proof that they don’t chew their food well!
The type of fish used is gold-banded scad (ikan selar kuning). These tiny fishes smells a bit too fishy, but strong spices mask it real well. The fish have to be cleaned thoroughly under clean running water, and all the guts (and other spareparts found inside the fish) has to be removed completely – otherwise the soup will be completely inedible. Those are her exact words, by the way.
We prepared the tamarind by soaking tamarind pulp in a cup of warm water. After a while, the pulp will be hydrated and just squeeze the pulp with fingers to get all the sourish juice off and discard the pulp. The other spices used are wild ginger torch, lemongrass and chili. One simple dish with all the wholesome spices!
Immediately after adding tamarind juice, the broth will turn slightly brownish. Adding the fish is the final step and the cooking time will be relatively short, considering the tiny size of the fish. it is delicious and soul-warming soup. Oops .. watch the bones! I have this idea that I would flake the fish before serving in the future.
Clear Fish Soup with Tamarind
1500 cc water
18 (10 g) bird's-eye chilies
2 red chilies
3 garlic cloves
2 ginger torch / wild ginger flower (bunga kantan/bunga kencong), halved
5 salam leaves
1 lemongrass, halved lengthwise and lightly bruised
25 g galangal, lightly bruised
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/2 cup warm water
500 g fresh gold-banded scad, alternatively any white fish fillet can be used
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
Boil water with ginger torch, lemongrass, shallots, garlic and salam leaves for 10 minutes.
Add tamarind juice, all chilies, salt and sugar. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Lastly, add the fish and cook for 5 more minutes over medium heat.
Serve with warm steamed rice.