Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Tale of Spice and Intrigue

A couple of years ago, when I was working for a daily, I stumbled upon the most delicious and fresh-tasting chilli side dish - at the publication company's canteen, of all places. I asked tall, strapping Raju, the canteen operator, what the reddish concoction was made from and he told me: "Pounded fresh chillies and sliced onion cooked in salt."

It was that simple. But it was also simply appetizing. You could wolf down spoonfuls of rice with just this 'sambal'. However, after serving it a couple of times, Raju stopped making it - despite my begging him to do so. He never told me why he didn't dish it out anymore, even though I talked football with him every so often. Since then I've dreamt of eating this fabulous chilli thing, but somehow or other never attempted to make it myself.

The weather these few days in and around Zug, Switzerland, has been hot, hot, hot. As Mrs HBT has said, in summer, whip up some spicy dishes to stimulate your appetite - not that mine ever needs stimulating (as it is, I must eat once every three or four hours due to 'low blood sugar' or hypoglycaemia).

A blogger from Guyana, Cynthia of Tastes Like Home http://www.tasteslikehome.org/ , has inspired me with her mouth-watering salt fish recipes. Today, I decided to break open the last pack of dried salted fish I'd brought from Malaysia and combine her tomato & onion inspiration with Raju's dream sambal into something satisfying yet low-caloried. (Who would have thought Cynthia and Raju would 'meet' like this?)


Tomato, Onion & Salt Fish Argussimo

3 or 4 pieces (roughly 50g) of dried salted fish, soaked in water for 10 minutes
2 tomatoes, cubed hugely
half a big onion, sliced quite thinly
1 red chilli, seeded and sliced thinly
1 tsp chopped or dried parsley
pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs of sunflower seed oil

Heat oil in saucepan. Add onion and stir-fry on medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Squeeze water from the salt fish and tear into smaller pieces, add them to the pan. Fry for another 2 minutes. Add tomato and fry till the liquid is reduced by half. Add sugar, salt and parsley, and cook for another minute. Serve hot with white rice.

51 comments:

Lee Ping said...

Dear Argus,

Salt fish Argussimo? Cynthia and Raju? You are truly a unique chef and writer.

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, MrsHBT. Glad you're quite easily entertained. ^_^

WokandSpoon said...

Loved your story! I'm sure Raju would be proud of your dish! Was it everything you dreamed of?

And you have to eat once every three or 4 hours? At least you have a good excuse...I have no excuse! I just eat every 3-4 hours ;-)

Kelly Mahoney said...

Yeah, I just eat every three hours because I lack self control :)

Great recipe, thanks for sharing.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, WokandSpoon, thanks!
It was very appetizing indeed, and I had to have two helpings of rice. In the evening I added some leftover panfried fish (first dredged in flour mixed with turmeric powder and salt) and it was still pretty good.

Hi, Kelly Mahoney. Welcome to Argus World! Hope we'll see more of you in the days to come.
Methinks "I have hypoglycaemia" sounds dramatic, if not romantic. But, really, it runs in my family. After 5 hours of not eating, we get cold sweat on our palms, feel light-headed and cranky, and if we still don't ingest at least something with real sugar, we might faint.

tigerfish said...

Anything spicy will be appetizing with rice ...yum! If I totally omit the salted fish, I bet this will taste different. Let me find my salted fish first.

gRaCe said...

Hmm...a truly unique dish u've cooked up there. Never thot we can cooked salted fish this way. But i dun really fancy tomatoes tho.. wun eat the fruit(is it a fruit or a vegetable again?)..sauce is okay for me. *picky eater i am*

Hahah...=D

wonda said...

I'm like you, experimenting and mixing up food. New name for MCC - Mixed Cham Campur!
Here goes a mixture English Hokkien & Malay. Hehe!

Kenny Mah said...

They say Necessity is the Mother of Invention... I guess in the kitchen, Cravings will do the same for inventiveness, eh? ;)

I try and eat every 3-4 hours too, but mostly smaller meals so that I don't slump at work after a heavy breakfast or lunch. After awhile it becomes normal, and not too much of a chore. Is that how it is for you too?

Argus Lou said...

Tigerfish, you can substitute with salted anchovies or sardines in tomato sauce. Those'll make interesting variations.

Spiffy, tomato is a vegetable or a cousin of the berry, methinks. You can Wiki it and tell me, heh heh.
Substitute tomato with more chillies (spicy!) or red capsicum (pepperoni).

Ya, Wonda, we in gweiloh country have to do the best we can to satisfy those cravings that come unbidden. Is it any wonder the name of the lil' town I live in is Cham? ;-) (pronounced kahm though)

Kenny, inventiveness is the offspring of cravings? Ya, you bet! Yes, I eat small portions too, but frequently. Friends think I 'eat so little' but the day's total amount is quite a lot. ;-P

gRaCe said...

Got it! Heheh...

Taken from Wikipedia:
"Botanically speaking, a tomato is the ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant: a fruit or, more precisely, a berry.

The U.S. Supreme Court declared that the tomato is a vegetable, using the popular definition which classifies vegetable by use, that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert.

But due to the scientific definition of a fruit and a vegetable, the tomato still remains a fruit when not dealing with US tariffs."

Huh?? So it's ermm..both a fruit and a vegetable? *scratches head*

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Hmmm. How intriguing. Reminds me of a made-for-TV movie I watched last month - Nasi Lemak Dina - where the sweet young thing would chop up the bodies of her victims and turn them into the yummiest rendang and sell the nasi lemak to the public. After she was done with the fresh meat, she'd move on to a different kampung and the whole cycle would happen again.

Maybe Raju and Dina have something in common? Hmmmmm?

Saltfish and tomatoes are an excellent combination - salty, sour, sweet. I'd probably improvise by throwing in ground chilli paste and turn it into a sambal.

indramalar said...

hey you. whynot gimme some vegetarian, no fat at all, recipes? in fact, if i can just satiate my hunger via sniffin the damn things, it'll be better. in fact, in fact, a recipe of somethin savoury-y of which i can eat enormous servings and not gain an ounce perhaps? ha ha. you know who this is dontcha... dontcha

Argus Lou said...

Spiffy, thanks for the leg work! Hah, trust the Yankees to turn a nice fruity berry into a veggie. It puts a new meaning to "it'll turn you into a vegetable," eh? If the govt levies tariffs on you, you become a vegetable. How true.

Lyrical, don't scare me silly lah. Ee-yer... come to think of it, Raju did leave our company and began operating another canteen in another company 10km away. (cue: Psycho theme music)
Chilli paste is even better, you're right. I was too lazy to pulverise chilli as it's so expensive here and most of it'd get stuck to the whatchamacallit machine instead of ending up in my gullet.

Argus Lou said...

Hey you, Indramalar. Food by definition contains calories. With that itty-bitty fact out of the way, may I suggest you half the oil content and make the Argussimo anyway and eat it with very thin slices of fatless toast?
Calories keep you alive to love the rest of us mortals, my lovely; if not, you'd be dead horizontal and Raju/Dina will make a fat-free rendang out of you, no problem. ;-)
(Don't sniff me; I haven't taken a shower and I'm sure my aroma will give u a calorie or two.)

Argus Lou said...

Sorry, Indramalar the Maladroit Mallard, you can omit the salted fish as you're vegetarian. (Are you sure you're not a fruitarian?! Mayhap you took one too many trips to NYC and the US Supreme Court declared something on you?)

Argus Lou said...

Indramalar, sorry about the 'maladroit'. Didn't realise what it meant till it was too late. ;-/

melody said...

you miss canteen food? i think you've been away too long. you do REMEMBER canteen food right????

Srivalli said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog..you have a nice place here...

Srivalli
www.cooking4allseasons.blogspot.com

Argus Lou said...

Melody, it was only that particular condiment which I liked so much.
(Was his name Raju or something more like Raj?)

Srivalli, thanks for visiting. I enjoy getting inspiration from your blog, which I'll drop into from time to time.

wonda said...

You can get salted fish there? Our salted fish is a different kind which is soft and we grill it, not like our M'sian "kiam hu." Can get the kiam hu here.

Tunku Halim said...

Argus - you mean you need something spicy to stimulate appetite? What kind of appetite are you referring to? I can eat lots, any time!

Argus Lou said...

Wonda, no, the salted fish was from M'sia which I had brought back on my last trip there. Here, it is only very salty soft anchovies in a small tin.

TH, MrsHBT is the one who does not have much appetite in summer, so she cooks something spicy to stimulate her appetite. Me, I'm always hungry, 15 hours a day, which works out to about 4 or 5 small meals a day. ;-)

indramalar said...

Aha. so you did not know that even vegetarians can enjoy the wonder of salted fish ... the local kedai sayur sayuran has everything from fake ikan bilis (heck they are way better than the original -- no need to clean) to fake camel meat. I know, that sounds horrible. I promise i aint imagining a camel when i bite into them patties ;)

Argus Lou said...

Dear Indramalar, so can a cannibalistic vegetarian get fake peeple meat too?!

(see older post, "What's delicious and red all over?")

East Meets West Kitchen said...

Must make a trip home now for salted fish after reading your post! :)

wonda said...

Argus,
I don't quite remember now but is New Thrill a section in The Star? You're writing a book? So when are you going back to Malaysia. You can bring back dried lemongrass, pandan leaves, bunga kantan, daun kesom which will last longer. I "brought" back pandan and daun kadok to grow but they died soon after they landed in Japanese soil.

Argus Lou said...

Hi, East Meets West Kitchen!
Yes, salted fish is quite versatile - we can use it in curries, fried rice, stir-fried noodles and saute-ed veggies. Provided Mr or Mrs 'West' likes it, too!

Wonda, I'm editing a couple of books and writing some short stories. Going to M'sia on Aug 24 and coming back on Sept 14. Thanks for the 'prime cargo' suggestions. ^_^ I'd add dark brown sugar and even condensed milk (the Deutsch other half seems to like it! And I eat it with avocado, heh heh).

Argus Lou said...

Wonda, 'New Thrill' was a bi-weekly periodical. It was renamed 'Malaysian Post', was never a part of 'The Star', and then became defunct around 1984. Today, if I remember correctly, the same publishing licence has been converted to 'The Sun'.

wonda said...

Argus,
I have shared with some interesting pictures with my fellow blogger through emails. I would like to share with you but you don't have an email address. If you are interested, please send it to my email address below my post on my blog. It's ok with me if you find email bothersome. Have an enjoyable trip in M'sia and go to those makan places that Lyrical Lemongrass and other food bloggers recommend you. Is your other half going with you too?

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Wonda. I will email to your address in your blog (if any. We're not supposed to show our email addresses on these public blogs, or else spammers will get them).

My other half is staying here while I'm away in M'sia - since he's a bit lazy to cook or has no time, he says he's going on a 'green' and/or liquid diet. Hope the 'liquid' is not all beer/wine/schnapps.

wonda said...

Sent to you already. Hope your other half doesn't turn green or watery when you come back!

Padma said...

I liked the title of your dish...I am lover of salt fish and Cynthia's salf fish was simply superb and refreshing

I have to tell ya, I love the way you write about the dish. Glad to know u

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Padma. Thanks for coming by. Hope to see more of your visits, though my posts are a bit erratic in frequency, depending on my workload and other commitments.

Glad you liked the 'story' and dish name. ^_^
My other half sniffed around in the kitchen cabinet yesterday and fished out my clipped half-used packet of dried fish and exclaimed: "This smells like something rotten!" I replied: "Now you know how your breakfast cheese smells like to me when you open the container."

Padma said...

Hi Argus, Thanks for visiting my page, and your kind comments. Good to know that you know people from our country. Yes that flower campaign helped a lot for we immigrants who are legally in US.

I have seen that you have included few of the Indian recipes in your blog, your interest to various cuisines is what makes your blog so different. Though am not as good at writing as you; but I love reading your replybacks...

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Padma. I grew up in a multi-cultural society and visited my childhood friends in their homes, eating with their families. Hence, I enjoy cuisine from different cultures and nationalities. :-)
This is quite normal for many Malaysians who grew up in the 1960s and 70s. Until today, I have kept friendships from childhood with Malays and Chinese-, Indian- and Eurasian-Malaysians. I've a couple of Sikh friends, too.

Thanks for your kind compliment. ^_^

Kenny Mah said...

Oh, oh, you're coming to Malaysia! Do let us know as the date approaches if there's an opportunity to meet up. I always love meeting bloggers in person... somehow the person still matches the personality! ;)

Argus Lou said...

Hi, Kenny. Xeus knows all about my trip to M'sia. Yes, we must try to meet if you're not too busy with work. (I'll be in Taiping, Perak, during the middle part though.)
Oh, aren't you worried I might be an ancient alien with an extra arm growing out of my solar plexus that will poke you in the chin every time you said something cheeky?! ;-)

Lee Ping said...

Dear Argus,
If you are buying gifts back to Switzerland, perhaps coffee or BOH tea from Malaysia?

My blogger friend Cocoa posted an article comparing Old Town Coffee and Chekup Coffee, the 3 in 1 kind. She said Old Town Coffee tastes better. I bought some Chekup Tea from Canada, they smelled and tasted like Teh Tarik.

Other items that I would buy from Malaysia to bring back to the US are dry snacks, snacks that I cannot get here. I was at a Malaysian/Singaporean gathering a few months ago and one of the ladies brought back Chinese New Year's cookies. Super yummy...

Kenny Mah said...

"...I might be an ancient alien with an extra arm growing out of my solar plexus that will poke you in the chin every time you said something cheeky?"

If so, I'm gonna get poked a lot! :P

Argus Lou said...

Yes, MrsHBT, Malaysian tea leaves and kopi are good ideas. My other half loves the local kopi - as a change from the also good but different South American ground beans. Hot ginger tea is also nice for a cold day.

Kenny, you truly know not what you're getting into. ^_^ Maybe Lyrical Lemongrass will protect you.

WokandSpoon said...

Hey - I wanted to email you to wish you a good trip but I can't find your email on your blog :-(
So have a good trip back! We're going to Melbourne this sunday too!

Argus Lou said...

Thanks, Wok&Spoon. Hope you'll have a wonderful time there and can keep in touch through your blog once in a while.

Lee Ping said...

Dear Argus,
More ideas on what to bring back from Malaysia. Check out: http://belachan2.blogspot.com/2007/08/goodies-from-ipoh-malaysia.html

Kenny Mah said...

LL protect me? Methinksnot. I'll protect myself, thank you very much. Ahem. Though having her and other lovely ladybloggers as my "bodyguards" won't be too bad a situation for me to be in... Heh heh heh.

Argus Lou said...

MrsHBT, thanks for the link. Yup, those 'chicken' biscuits and snacks look lovely -- but oh so fattening!

Kenny, yes, you do the Body Balance and they will guard your toned body. ;-) Any chance for me to take an affordable crash course in it while I'm in KL for a week?

Lee Ping said...

They are gift ideas... and if you eat in moderation, I think you will be fine. Or perhaps after eating those fattening snacks, you can accompany your husband to work by riding with him and perhaps pick up some gladioli and lily on your way back. :)

Argus Lou said...

Those are wonderful ideas, MrsHBT. Thanks!

Lyrical Lemongrass said...

Kenny Mah said...
LL protect me? Methinksnot.


Cheh! I oso dowwan to protect dat Kenny la. Especially when you, notti Argus got extra tentacles!! (Psst...Kenny may pour kicap pekat on ur tentacles and think they're sashimi!)

Argus Lou said...

Omigawd! Lyrical, I don't want my extra tentacle eaten with kicap since it took a long time and effort growing it (not to mention hiding it from the unsuspecting Swiss public).

zlamushka said...

Hi Argus,

I noticed you made Cynthia´s famous fish recipes (kinda, in a fusion way). WOW... that is wicked. I also enjoy her blog and made quite a few recipes already.

I am hosting Tried and Tasted event dedicated to cooking from other blogs, and this month were cooking from Tastes Like Home. Would you consider submitting it to my event?

come over to my blog for more details...

My old living-room

My old living-room
In Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

A cherished dream

A cherished dream
To live on a pale beach by a crystal clear sea. (This was taken on the east coast of Johor state, Malaysia.)

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