'Nyonya' cuisine is a hybrid of Chinese and Malay flavours. These fish cakes are a perfect example, infused with the taste and soul of both cultures.
- 500 g Spanish mackerel fillets, skin removed, pin-boned and finely chopped
- 10 large pieces banana leaf, thawed if frozen
- 20 toothpicks, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes to prevent them burning
- steamed rice, to serve
- 2 tsp belacan (dried shrimp paste)
- 8 red Asian shallots, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 fresh long red chillies, seeded and sliced
- 10 dried red chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes until softened, drained and chopped
- 4 cm piece galangal, peeled and chopped
- 4 cm piece turmeric (or 1 tsp ground turmeric), peeled and chopped
- 3 stems lemongrass, lower pale part only
- 250 ml (1 cup) coconut cream
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 heaped tbsp glutinous rice flour or ordinary rice flour
- 6-8 makrut lime leaves, centre vein removed and very finely shredded
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 4 hours
1. Finely chop half the mackerel and coarsely chop remaining half.
2. For the ground paste, place the belacan over an open flame or in a small frying pan over high heat and lightly toast for 2-3 minutes. Place belacan into a food processor with the remaining ingredients and the coarsely chopped mackerel and blend into a fine paste.
3. Place the fish paste ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine well. Add the ground paste and the finely chopped mackerel and mix well to combine, preferably with your hands so you can ensure all the ingredients are well mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight if time permits.
4. Cut the banana leaves into 20 cm x 18 cm pieces, then wipe them with a clean damp tea towel to remove any dirt. Carefully wilt the banana leaves over a gentle flame or in a wok of boiling water to soften for 15 seconds, then pat dry and set aside. If your banana leaves were frozen, you can skip this step.
5. To prepare the parcels, place a piece of banana leaf on a flat surface and scoop 2-3 tablespoons of fish filling into the centre. Bring one long side of the banana leaf into the centre, then fold the other long side over to overlap. Fold up the shorter ends and secure each end with a soaked toothpick. Repeat with the remaining filling and banana leaves.
6. Half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Place a steamer base on top, ensuring it isn't touching the water in the pan. Steam the parcels in a single layer for 10-15 minutes. To check if they're cooked through.
7. Preheat a lightly oiled chargrill pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fishcakes for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. To check if they're ready, lightly squeeze the centre of the outside of one of the parcels, and if it's firm and bouncy, then they're ready. You can also steam the fishcakes over high heat for 10-15 minutes if you prefer. Serve the fishcake parcels hot with steamed rice.
Diana Chan is exploring the many dishes of Asia within Australia in the brand-new series, Asia Unplated with Diana Chan.