Friday, 30 May 2014

Caramelised Basa Fillets with Tamarind

Trey kho umpil

We first encountered this Vietnamese dish at a small beach restaurant in Dai Lanh near Nang Tra back in 1997. To reach the restaurant we had to traverse the river on a rickety old wooden footbridge, and the place itself looked run down and maybe not the sort of place I would normally have chosen to eat; but the fish was very fresh and absolutely delicious! The sweet, sour and spicy flavour combination has stayed with me ever since, although this is the first time I have attempted to make it at home. 


I'd stocked the freezer with lots of different fish when I went to Morrisons last week, and I asked Husband to take out a random packet of fish for tonight's supper. I was looking on line for inspiration about how to prepare basa fillets when I saw this recipe and the memory of this ramshackle beach café in Vietnam came back to me.

Basa is a type of catfish native to Vietnam and Thailand and has a somewhat unusual consistency but a nice firm flesh and good flavour. We both loved this dish and I shall definitely be cooking it again.

* The recipe called for fish sauce, but as I am not very keen I substituted some extra thick soy sauce. You can of course use normal dark soy sauce, but the consistency will be thinner. You can get it at Chinese supermarkets – I bought mine at Wai Yee Hong OrientalSupermarket in Eastville. 


Serves 2
Less than ½ syn per serving

2 basa fillets
2 small onions, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp extra thick soy sauce*
1 tbsp tamarind paste (½ syn)
1 tsp sambal oelek (or lazy chilli)
2 tbsp sweetener
1 bunch of spring onions, sliced diagonally in 1 inch slices

Sauté the onion in Fry Light over a low heat until translucent and soft. Add 200ml water, the soy sauce, sweetener, tamarind paste, garlic and sambal oelek and stir well. Place the basa fillets in the liquid and simmer gently until they are cooked through, some 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets, turning half way through to ensure the fish is coated in the mixture. 2-3 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the spring onions.

I served this with brown rice with a handful of frozen chopped vegetables added for the last couple of minutes of the cooking time; tenderstem broccoli and Do Chua Vietnamese pickles. I used a bit of a cheat's recipe for the pickles, as I made them up fresh rather than actually pickling them. Husband said it was very refreshing and went well with the fish. 


Do Chua

½ daikon or mooli, grated
1 large carrot, grated
knob of ginger, grated
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sweetener

Mix all the ingredients together and serve. Any leftovers can be kept for several days in the fridge. 


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