Father’s Day is approaching which is over a week away. This year some of us will again be celebrating this special day in lockdown away from our dad’s. I have been thinking of my dad’s favourite fish, which is salted mackerel fish. He is always raving about this fish and often visits local markets or stops by street kiosks on the way to Bangkok to purchase it. He usually has fried salted fish with fresh sliced shallots, chopped birds-eye chilli, lime juice and steamed jasmine rice.
I have no clue as to why my dad raves about salted fish. When I was a kid, salted fish looked unappetising to me, it’s dry, smelly, and so salty. However, one day I decided to encounter this unappealing looking salted mackerel for the first time, and I must admit, I absolutely loved it and since have no qualms about ordering this dish at any restaurant. My dad is right. This ingredient goes well with many dishes such as stir-fried salted fish with Chinese broccoli, salted fish fried rice, steamed pork patty with salted fish, salted fish with congee, salted fish in dipping sauce or just have it the way my dad loves it.
This thin slice of salted mackerel is the traditional method of curing fish which is widely known in different cultures. In Asian cuisine, you might have come across an Indonesian dish like Nasi Goreng Ikan Asin or Cantonese chicken and salted fish fried rice. In Thailand, to prepare salted mackerel fish, the fresh fish is washed and cleaned throughrouly, gutted and inserted with an amount of salt through its mouth vertically as well as rubbed with salt around its body and left overnight. Then, the fish will be sundried for a few days before being sliced, packing in a clean container preserving in oil or brine.
To bring this dish to a non-Asian background husband is tricky. I still remember having him to try green papaya salad with fermented fish sauce while he introduced me to vegemite on toast and blue cheese. It is a daunting experience and you either love it or you hate it. I decide to choose one of my most-liked dishes from one of the restaurants near my university in Sam Yan, Thailand. This Thai-fusion dish called Spaghetti stir-fried with mackerel salted fish. To show him how my dad’s favourite ingredient can create delicious dish and hopefully encourage him to try without judging on the overwhelming-fishy smell.
Prepare fried garnishes
There are three elements in this dish that we need to fry them first. We can use the same oil but make sure you do it in order. You can also use rice bran or vegetable oil.
Prepare salted mackerel fish
Frying and battering is a great way to reduce the fishy smell from a salted mackerel. In these steps, half slice of mackerel will be pulled and battered and mixed with stir fry in the last process, a quarter will be mixed with spaghetti before stir frying and the rest will be battered as a garnish.
We use Spaghetti No.3 which is a good size for this type of stir fry. The smaller or bigger sizes of spaghetti are also ok depending on your preference. Cook spaghetti until it is al dente, so you get spaghetti that is cooked through and still firm
Time to combine and stir fry
Prepare finely chopped garlic, chopped onion, roughly chopped birds-eye chilli, and chopped dried chilli. You can remove seeds from dried chilli to minimise the spiciness. Also, have your fresh Chinese broccoli chopped and separate between stems and leaves, deseeded cherry tomato wedges (This is to reduce liquid in our stir fry), julienne red bullhorn chilli (Yes, you can use red capsicum instead) and basil leaves ready to go.
To serve stir-fried spaghetti with salted mackerel fish
Salted fish is already very salty so be careful when you add seasoning sauce, soy sauce or any other condiment for saltiness. Don’t forget that we also add a bit of cheese before serving which is slightly salty as well. I choose palm sugar to add sweetness to the dish, but you can also use raw or white sugar for this recipe.
It took me a while to get this dish done while having to deal with my little one, but the outcome is worth it. My husband loves the dish and has no issue with a mackerel salted fish that seems to integrate well with this recipe and the bonus is my little girl loves to try it as well. I think I made my dad happy by cooking with his favourite ingredient and continue his legacy of eating salted mackerel fish. Try this recipe if you like to share something different to your non-Asian friends.
Ingredients for 2 serves
☐Salted Mackerel Fish 80 g or 1 slice
☐Dried Chilli 6 (4 for garnish and 2 to be chopped, deseeded and add in stir fry)
☐ Bird-eye chilli 2
☐ Cherry Tomato ½ cup
☐ Ground Pepper ½ tsp
☐ Thai/Italian basils 1 cup
☐ Chinese broccoli 1 ½ cup
☐ Chopped Onion ½ cup
☐ Garlic 4 cloves
☐ Spaghetti No.3 200 g
☐ Red Bullhorn Chilli ¼ cup
☐ Soy sauce 1 tbsp
☐ Seasoning Sauce 1 tbsp
☐ Palm Sugar 1 tbsp
☐ Grated parmesan cheese 1 tsp
☐ Tapioca starch 2 tbsp
☐ Pinch of Salt
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