Boemboe Bali Ikan (Fish Bali Style in a Spice Sauce)

You can use almost any kind of fish, whole, steaks or filets. For 4 people you'll need about 3 pounds of fish. If you use whole fish try small sea bass, blue fish, porgies, mackerel. Cod, haddock, halibut, swordfish or tuna in steaks or filets. Cut the filets in one person portions.

To prepare the fish:

If whole fish is used, clean and pat them dry but leave the heads and tail on for a dramatic presentation. If you use steaks or filets, clean them and pat them dry.

Make enough of a slurry from rice flour, one egg and some milk. Season the fish with some salt and dredge the fish in the slurry till evenly coated. Heat enough peanut oil in a skillet and fry them till golden brown but not cooked all the way through. Set aside and prepare the sauce.

For the sauce:

2 cups fine chopped onions
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbs minced hot chilies or 2 tsp sambal oelek
2 tsp grated fresh djahe (ginger)
1 tsp koentjit or turmeric
1 tsp laos or galangal
1 tsp shrimp paste (trassi) or substitute with anchovy paste
4 tsp gula jawa or substitute with brown sugar or blackstrap molasses
3 Daon Salam or substitute high quality laurel leaves
2 stalks sereh or lemon grass, white parts only
1 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 cup ayer asam (tamarind water) or substitute with juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs ketjap manis or mix a one to one salt free soy sauce and molasses
2 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs peanut oil
1 cup of water

To make tamarind water, take a piece of tamarind paste of about the size of a walnut and let it soak in warm water. Squeeze the pulp to release the soft parts of the fruit and give the water a dark brown color. Strain the water through a fine sieve.

In a food processor, combine the onions, garlic, chilies or sambal oelek, ginger, turmeric, galangal, trassi or anchovy paste, and the sugar. Process till a coarse paste is formed.

Cut the lemon grass into one inch pieces and mash them flat with a cleaver.

Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the paste for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly and prevent from burning it. Lower the heat and add the salam or laurel leaves, the lemon grass, tamarind water or lemon juice, ketjap manis and tomato paste. Add some water if the sauce gets too thick and let it simmer for an other 5 minutes to extract the flavors out of the spices. Keep adding water to keep the sauce from getting too thick.

Place the fish in a large oven proof baking dish and pour the sauce over the fish. Place the dish in the center of a preheated 350F oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Baste occasionally and add water if sauce gets too thick. Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust to your liking. If you cannot handle too much of the chilies use less to start with, you can always add more later.

The fish can also be added to the skillet with the sauce and cook on top of the stove over a low flame, basting constantly. Check the sauce for seasoning and adjust.

This dish should be served with either basmati or jasmine rice and a vegetable dish such as gado-gado and an atjar or chutney.

Yield: 4 Servings from 3 lbs of Fish