Ikan acar kuning literally means yellow pickled fish. But it's not. What it is, is delish. It is one of the few fish dishes my mother used to make because she was not so fond of fish or seafood for that matter. Unlike me, I like fish and seafood almost any which way - you name it. The fish I'm using here is Snapper, but you can use other salt water fish like Mackeral (Tenggiri) or Tuna or use fresh water fish like Carp (Ikan Mas) or Tilapia (Mujair). To make this it is better to use a whole fish but if you are one of those people who cannot look at a fish head then buy the fish sliced 2 inches in width that is cut through the spine. And if you are a complete fillet kind of person, then I suppose you can pour the sauce over the grilled fillet because to cook it together in a pan would risk having the fillet fall apart.
There's a lot of preparation work when cooking most Indonesian food so it's not for those who are looking for a quick and easy fix. Fry a fish stick in that case. I think because I love to cook is the reason why I have a lot patience to learn how to make a new dish or experiment with turning an old dish into something new. Cooking for me is a form of relaxation, it helps put my mind off the day's passing which are oftentimes stressful.
The first step is to marinate the fish in freshly ground garlic (3 cloves) & salt diluted in a little water. Let it soak for at least half an hour.
- Dice 1 carrot lengthwise & green beans 4 cms long and put that aside.
- Dice 1 unpeeled and scrubbed cucumber, also lenthwise 4 cms. long and cut off the seeds and put in a separate bowl.
- Peel 15 shallots (ten to throw in the sauce whole and 5 to grind with the spices)
- Peel 4 garlic cloves to grind with spices
- Thickly chop one large red chilli and as many small green chillis with stem removed, this will be thrown in whole. This will make the sauce a little bit more spicy but not overly spicy, it also gives off an added aroma. I eat these whole - the hotter the better.
- 1 Stick of lemon grass about 10cm long and smash the end part, 2-3 kafir lime leaves, 1 bay leaf.
- Fresh tumeric about the length of your thumb, stick a fork in it and burn over the stove along with the skin until most of it is charred. This helps to bring out the flavor of the tumeric more. Then scrape off the skin and dice.
Fry the fish until it's golden and crisp then strain and put aside. In another pan, saute the ground spices with the bay leaf, kafir lime leaves and lemon grass untill the aroma sets in, then add about 2 and a half cups of water and let simmer. Pour a bit of white vinegar and white pepper. When you are making sauces, always taste it and adjust it according to your liking. Some like it more sour, some sweet and sour...so don't be afraid to experiment and discover the taste that suits you. I usually add about a tablesspoon of sugar to balance the sourness and let the sauce simmer a bit, before the carrots, green beans, the 10 whole peeled shallots, the chopped large red chilli, and the small whole green chillis. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes on low to medium heat or until the sauce thickens a bit. In the last 5 minutes put in the chopped cucumber so that it retains a bit of it's crunchiness. Then put in the pre fried fish and let the sauce soak in for 5 to 10 minutes. And there you have it; a delicious meal served with rice.