When you want something quick (30 minutes), easy, delicious, and healthy to boot, you may want to give this soy bean paste fish a try. This soy bean paste sauce is one of my favorite sauce, and if you are like me, you will want to pair it with everything, from fried tofu cubes, to something heavier such as bite size fried chicken.
Choosing your fish and how to pan fry fish fillet
Red snapper, rock fish, swai, cod, grouper, halibut, and tilapia are some of my favorite white fish fillet for pan frying. As long as the fish fillet of your choice has firm flesh, it should be good. If white fish is not your favorite, you can even use salmon or trout fillet. Whichever fish fillet you choose, be sure to pat them dry with paper towel, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dust with all-purpose flour (or cornstarch for gluten-free option).
Salted soy beans (tauco)
The key ingredient for making soy bean paste fish is salted soy beans. We call this tauco in Indonesia. You can find salted soy beans in most Asian market, and sometimes they are also called fermented soy beans. I typically go either with Yeos salted soy beans, or Dragonfly fermented soy beans. You can use other brands, but try to select the ones with whole soy beans, not the ones with ground soy beans.
Curry leaves (or kaffir lime leaves)
Another key ingredient is curry leaves. Stores that only sell East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) and Southeast Asian fares (Indonesian, Singaporea, Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, e.t.c.) are usually not a good place for fresh curry leaves. It is better to try Indian or Middle Eastern markets for some fresh curry leaves. I usually buy them in bulk, as in I buy half a gallon worth of zip lock bag of curry leaves, then freeze them. Curry leaves can last for months and months when frozen like this. If fresh curry leaves is not something that is easy to come by, you can substitute with kaffir lime leaves.
Have you ever visited Asian bakerie and look at the pretty purple color from their taro baked goods?
Actually, you can make taro paste easily at home, just with a handful of ingredients: taro root, coconut milk, and sugar. You won’t get the shocking bright purple color though (I suspect the ones from the bakery are most likely artificial), but what you will get is a pretty pink hue sweet paste.
You can use taro paste for all sort of dessert, like for steamed buns (Chinese bao/mantou), bread filling, mochi filling, even mooncake filling.
And if you want to go with western dessert, mix this taro paste with a bit of butter (or coconut cream) to make the paste more like buttercream consistency and use as your cake/cupcake frosting!
Taro roots are usually available in most Chinese grocery stores. Sometimes you can find them fresh, in which case you will need to peel the rough brown skin to reveal the whitish flesh with pink/purple vein/thread.
Some people can feel itchy from handling taro, so if you have a pair of disposable gloves, it is a very good idea to wear those while handling taro.
Most likely though, you will find the roots already peeled and vacuum packed, which is very convenient since the store already does the prep work of peeling the skin away for you.
Since we will be steaming the roots, it is best to chop them into smaller chunks. I like to chop them into roughly 1″ cubes.
Once they are chopped, you can steam the taro until fork tender. You can then mashed the steamed taro root with either a fork, a potato masher, or even a food processor if you don’t want to do it manually.
Cook the Steamed Taro with Coconut Milk and Sugar into Taro Paste
Once you have mashed/pureed steamed taro, transfer to a frying pan (it doesn’t have to be non-stick, I use my stainless steel pan for this) along with coconut milk and sugar.
Cook all these three ingredients together over medium-low heat, and stir until everything is homogenous.
Stir regularly until a paste is formed. There should be no standing liquid and the paste should be smooth.
For me, 200 gram of sugar is generally sweet enough, but you can increase the amount of sugar to 250 gram, or even 300 gram, if you prefer sweeter paste.
Transfer to Jars/Containers for Longer Storage
This recipe should yield about 3 cups of taro paste. For ease of storage and usage, I usually store each cup individually.
Whenever I make a batch of bread, steamed buns, or pastry, I typically only need one cup per batch, so storing my homemade taro paste into separate containers per cup make the most sense for me.
I hope you will give this recipe a try, and hopefully this will end up being one of your favorite Asian sweet paste that you can use for many purposes: bread, steamed buns, mochi, mooncakes, and even for Western-style pastries.
Sambal goreng (fried chili paste) is a basic multi-purpose chili paste that can be the base of many delicious Indonesian spicy dishes, plus it can be enjoyed as is. This chili sauce is especially great with fried food, such as ayam goreng/fried chicken, bakwan/fritters, bakso goreng/fried meatballs, tahu goreng/fried tofu or perkedel/potato fritters.
What do I need to make sambal goreng?
I want my sambal goreng to be full of umami, and for this, I usually use all of these to make my trusted fried chili paste:
dried red chilies. My Asian market typically stock chilies from China and from Thailand, the Chinese are usually slightly milder than Thai ones, so choose according to how hot you want your chili paste to be.
shallots. I use smaller Chinese/Asian shallots, but regular French shallots are okay too.
onion. Choose yellow/white, though, in a pinch, you can use red onion too.
terasi/belacan/shrimp paste. This stinky and pungent block of fermented shrimps is the key to umami-rich chili paste, so definitely try to hunt it down. In a really short pinch, you can use fish sauce, but the final chili paste is definitely inferior to the one using terasi/belacan/shrimp paste.
kaffir lime leaves. This adds that lovely citrusy fragrance to the chili paste, sub with lime zest in a pinch.
tamarind. I usually buy a wet seedless tamarind packet and add water as needed to make my own tamarind paste. In a pinch, you can use tomato paste too, but it will taste slightly different from our traditional chili paste.
How do I make sambal goreng?
Making your very own sambal goreng is quite easy. You will need:
a saucepot/a soup pot/a wok
Here is the step-by-step process to cook sambal goreng:
Boil dry chilies in a small pot. Simmer until chilies are soft. This should take about 10 minutes.
Toast terasi/belacan/shrimp paste. The easiest method is using a microwave and cooks for 30 seconds.
Place boiled chilies, shallots, garlic, onion, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, and water in a blender. Process into a smooth paste.
Transfer the smooth chili paste into a saucepot/soup pot/wok, cook on medium-high until the paste is thicker and drier.
Add oil and kaffir lime leaves to the paste. Stir to mix, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium-low and cook for another 20 minutes, or until oil starts to separate from the chili paste. We call this phenomenon “pecah minyak” in Indonesian/Malaysian.
Season with salt, sugar, and tamarind juice. Stir until everything is incorporated into the chili paste. You may adjust the amount of sugar/salt to suit your taste.
And our sambal goreng is done! You now have the option to store them for longer storage or enjoy the chili paste immediately.
How to store and use Indonesian sambal goreng?
This recipe will yield about 4 cups of sambal goreng. I usually divide the chili paste into 4 portions, 1 cup each, and store in sterilized glass jars. Any unopened jar of chili paste should last for up to 2 months in the fridge. Once opened and used, you want to finish it within a week.
How do I use this sambal goreng?
Sambal goreng is basically one of Indonesian handy instant sauce. Arm with this, we can make delicious dishes within minutes. The guide to make a sambal goreng dish is like so:
1/2 cup of sambal goreng/fried chili paste
500 gram (1 lb.) of meat, seafood, vegetables, egg, tofu, or tempeh
Basically, you need to only heat the chili paste in a frying pan/wok, then add your choice of protein/vegetables. Stir, cook, and toss until the protein/vegetables are cooked and coated. If you want some examples of authentic Indonesian dishes made with this handy chili paste, you can try some of these recipes:
Based on these examples, feel free to create your own sambal goreng dishes. Have fun and enjoy. 🙂
Terasi/belacan/shrimp paste is an important ingredient in Indonesian culinary. We use it to prepare Indonesian most popular chili sauce, sambal terasi, and it is also present in many Indonesian dishes. Today’s recipe for this delicious terong saus terasi (eggplant with spicy shrimp paste sauce) also uses terasi to give it a rich umami flavor.
What is terasi/belacan/shrimp paste?
Terasi is made from tiny shrimps fermented with salt. It is shaped into a block with dark chocolate color. It has a very pungent smell, akin to a highlyl condensed and intense smell of fish sauce.
It can be hard to find Indonesian terasi sold in the United States. I use Malaysian belacan most of the time and it tastes almost exactly like Indonesian terasi. If your market doesn’t have terasi nor belacan, you can also try Thai shrimp paste.
I hope you will be able to find one of these three and use it to prepare this lovely dish.
How to use/toast terasi
Terasi/belacan must be toasted before using it. Cut the amount called for in a recipe, and toast it until the color is pale and becomes crumbly.
The easiest method will be putting the shrimp paste in a microwave-proof bowl, cover the bowl with a microwave-proof plate, and cook for 30 seconds. This is usually enough to toast the terasi properly.
If you don’t own a microwave, you can also pan-fry the terasi in a frying pan without any oil until pale and crumbly. Using an oven toaster works too, or if you have a gas stove, use a pair of tongs to grab the terasi and stick it in the open flame.
Ingredients for terong saus terasi
This recipe needs eggplants, tomatoes, red chilies, shallot, garlic, terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, scallions, salt, and sugar.
Indonesian eggplants are similar to Chinese eggplants, which are slimmer and lankier than their American cousins. But you don’t have to use Chinese eggplants for this dish. I was using American globe eggplants when I prepared this recipe.
I use dried Thai red chilies since that’s the most convenient and reliable chilies I stock at home. I simply soak the dried chilies in hot water until soft before using it.
You can use fresh red chilies too if you do have them in your kitchen.
The number of chilies is not exact and you can adjust the amount to suit your preferred spiciness level of the final dish.
Preparing eggplant for frying
A successful stir-fried eggplant dish depends more on how you prep the eggplants, and less on the variety of eggplants you decide to use for that dish.
Eggplants, be it Chinese eggplants or American globe eggplants, have so much excess air distributed within their spongy cell networks. This trapped air is the reason why frying eggplants, untreated, or as-is, tends to make eggplants stick and burn when you stir-fry them. So how do we avoid this?
The most fail-proof and easiest method that I have found over the years is by cutting eggplants into wedges, and soak them in a big bowl of salted water. Usually for two medium-size eggplants, soaking them in a mixture of 2 quarts water and 1/3 cup salt for 30 minutes should break down the cell structure and the eggplants will fry beautifully.
Remember to drain the eggplants and pat dry them well with paper towels so they won’t splatter when fried in hot oil.
Cooking the eggplant dish
First, use a food processor or a blender with a spice attachment to grind together red chilies, shallot, garlic, and toasted shrimp paste into a smooth paste.
Next, heat a wok over medium-high heat until hot, then add 4 tablespoons of oil and swirl to coat the wok. Add eggplant wedges into the wok sear until golden brown. Set aside.
Lower the heat to a medium, there should be some oil left in the wok, but if there isn’t, add a little more oil so it comes to about 2 tablespoons. Add the spice paste and kaffir lime leaves and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add tomato, salt, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tomato wilts.
Return fried eggplants into the wok and turn up the heat to medium-high. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a medium and cook until eggplant is soft and tender, and the sauce has reduced.
Turn off the heat. Transfer the dish to a serving plate and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.
Other recipes using terasi
If you love terasi and would like to use it more to prepare other dishes, you can try some of these recipes: