Ever been to traditional market on a hot and humid day, trying to pick out some dried salted fish? I have. Not the most cherished moment of daily grocery shopping. Trays and trays of dried salted seafood perfectly displayed on the counter, with some strange looking fishes and other sea creatures dangling on over your head. Each one of these items give up different level of pungent smelt that peaks up during hot and humid summer days. The shopping trip would almost be a torture for those who is not familiar with it.

You may be put off by the idea of its intense saltines and pungent aroma, but once you acquired the taste for fish sauce and shrimp paste, you will develop the taste for dried seafood. Like western luxury food items such as truffle and caviar, dried seafood is often act as flavor booster. A bit will go a long way.

Chinese and South East Asian love salting and sun-drying their seafood. It has very concentrated flavor and the aromas are so overwhelming, even for us who grew up eating it. Plenty supply of fish has prompted this practice, and the inexpensive nature of this source of protein has made dried fish humble dish for any families.

Our grandmother had a signature dish that is well loved by all her grandchildren. She steamed the fish with pieces of pork belly with shallots and chili. One big pot can feed the whole family when served with steamed rice or porridge. Dried salted fish that is used should be from big fish, such as barramundi (ikan asin kakap), instead of smaller fish like sardines, mackerel or anchovies. This way it would not fall apart from long period of cooking time.

The fatty part of pork belly will infuse both the meat and the salted fish and create something less than extraordinary, again, which you can appreciate once you acquired the taste.

Steamed Salted Fish with Pork

Makes 6 servings


150 g pork belly
150 g salted fish, barramundi preferably
10 shallots (70 g)
1 clove garlic
5 red chili (20 g), sliced
1/3 cup thai bird's eye chili (30 gr), sliced
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce


Soak the fish fillet in cold water for 10 minutes to remove the excess salt and slightly rub the surface to clean it up
Cut pork and fish into 0.5" cubes
In a heatproof bowl (non-metal, preferably), combine all ingredients
Steam over high heat for 1 hour
Serve with warm rice or plain rice porridge

Step by step shots

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9 Responses to “Steamed Salty Fish with Pork”

  1. 1

    Tuty — May 19, 2009 @ 11:27 pm

    I love ikan asin of all kinds and cumi asin too…. fried salted fish, sambal terasi, and cucumber with steamed rice. Oh so heavenly. You are so lucky there. The price of salted fish here is astronomical. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  2. 2

    Jun — May 20, 2009 @ 7:55 am

    It stinks up the whole house, if deep fried like usual. But with this steaming technique, it only stinks up my breath. LOL

  3. 3

    Ravenous Couple — May 20, 2009 @ 12:54 pm

    what wonderful comfort food!! So much broth and juiciness from just the pork belly alone?

    Ravenous Couple’s last blog post..Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp Skewers

  4. 4

    tigerfish — May 20, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    Oh, look at all the chili padi. This dish has got the heat, ya?
    And this dish is new to me.

    tigerfish’s last blog post..Banana and plantain – fruit or herb ?

  5. 5

    tastesofhome — May 20, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

    wow wow, this is seriously making my mouth water! My mom has a version of this dish without the chillis though..yours look great too!!! yum yum! i love salted fish with pork hehe

    tastesofhome’s last blog post..Luncheon Meat (Chinese spam) Fried Rice Recipe

  6. 6

    Gertrude — May 21, 2009 @ 12:11 am

    My mom used to cook a dish similar to this but she used ground pork and fried salted fish. Mix both together and steam it together with some ginger. Wish I can have some with rice now for dinner :)

    Gertrude’s last blog post..Cinnamon Twist

  7. 7

    Tangled Noodle — May 21, 2009 @ 4:16 am

    This looks wonderful! I love all the shallots but the combination of salted fish and pork belly sounds irresistible.

    Tangled Noodle’s last blog post..A Causa for Celebration

  8. 8

    rose — May 21, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

    my mom made this but she added slivered ginger and fried them till fragrant before steaming. this was enough to feed the whole household because all you need is just a little bit of the juice with hot steaming rice. this is really good. thanks for sharing the recipe.

  9. 9

    Jun — May 22, 2009 @ 5:02 am

    Ravenous Couple,
    Yes! Isn’t that great? It tasted so so much better the next day. Just refrigerate and reheat by steaming.

    So much heat like you wouldn’t believe …

    Tastes of Home,
    The chili is considerably soften by steaming. It is a nice addition.

    That’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing :)

    Tangled Noodle,
    They are perfect together. Haha!

    I would try your version soon. Thanks for sharing, Rose

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