Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fresh Fish Head with Wild Ginger Soup

Ikan Sultan or Ikan Jelawat. Chinese call it Su Tang Yu.

this is a type of wild ginger flower. In west Malaysia it is called Torch Ginger. In Sarawak it is called Kechalak by the natives. The Malays call it Bunga Kantan.

Fresh water fish is lovely if it is very fresh from the Baram and Rejang. So when I think of a good river fish I think of semah . And to be able to get one in the fresh fish market it is almost like finding a gold mine. But alas since the semah is not so readily available (now near extinct) I have to settle with a small head of Ikan Sultan (about 600 grams)which is quite adequate for two persons.

Last night I had this small but fresh fish head to share with my father-in-law's cousin. It isn't quite the thing to steam(ching chen - my favourite) just the head of a small fish so I decided to use wild ginger from the back garden and make a simple fish head soup. It was definitely worth spending time and love to cook the dish!

The fish head was cut into three pieces with three small stalks of wild ginger and flowers. (The head and another slice for the guest and one slice for yours truly.)

Boil four cups of water with some normal ginger and a few drops of sesame oil. Add the fish slices when the water is boiling. Cover the pot for about 20 minutes to bring out the full flavour of the fish head.

Add the sliced wild ginger flowers and cook till soft - about 10 minutes. Add some hot chilies. A few asam paya would be nice too to enhance the sweetness of the fish while adding some sourish tang!! Add salt and pepper to taste.

We had rice (specially cooked with a lot of hard crust in a good thick pot - kerak asi) with a good green chilli and belacan sambal and freshly boiled long beans (from the neighbour's garden). The soup was good to the last drop!!

When relatives come the kitchen can become the centre of social interaction especially if they can cook together and have fun like in the olden days.

It was a good organic meal! Hope you can join me next time. And I hope some one can give me the English name of this sultan fish. It is probably a near cousin of the semah.

17 memories:

Superman said...

Never try ginger flower before. I think the fish head with wild ginger soup sure nice to go with rice. My mum always steam cook the sultan fish. The meat is soft and sweet.

headsteadi said...

i love steamed sultan, teo-chew style

sarawakiana said...

Hi Superman
Nice of you to visit. Wild ginger flower is an acquired taste. But the more you eat it the more you like it. It is most famously used for making of Penang Laksa.
I like Ching Chen steam.

sarawakiana said...

If you do get fresh ikan sultan steaming is the best...the chinese have so many fantastic styles of steaming - Hong Kong etc....Is the Teo Chew style with the toufoo?
I think the secrets are salty vegetables and some sourish ingredient like sour plums...and then a few drops of wine....
O......I am hungry already for steamed fish.

justin said...

this must be really nice. We normally steam this kind of sultan fish with ginger and lots of plum sauce. the fire must be very high.
Very good fish!
We normally use wild ginger for laksa and bamboo chicken.

sarawakiana said...

Fresh sultan fish is definitely a good buy and a good family dish especially steamed.
Have you ever tried salt baked Ikan Sultan? I understand Bintulu is rather famous for this dish and in fact with any kind of good fish.
I hope one day I can get to eat it. And of course we must learn to cook this style.

Bengbeng said...

i love wild ginger flower n needless to say i acquired it from eating penang laksa. i doubt if i ever will b able to cook this dish as nice as you but I sure would love to try your cooking sometime. Perhaps one day in Miri :)

sarawakiana said...

Dear Bengbeng
I am glad that many Hokkiens from Penang like Bunga Kantan. Actually the research by MU professors have led to a lot of findings about its anti-oxidant properties. One professor has already been manufacturing anti-aging creams based on bunga kantan according to a well informed source. Eating wild ginger is definitely good for youthfulness.
May be a lot of thePenang ladies look young and beautifuil because they have been eating a lot of it??
Sure you and your family are always welcome to visit me in Miri...and definitely no problem with cooking together.
God bless.

bliss said...

I cannot remember our family not cooking with bunga kantan. Our favourite is the young stems and flowers cooked with fresh river prawns. My father is a good fisherman. But nowadays as he grows older we have less prawns . Also we have moved away from the river side house used to lived in about ten years ago.
I think many people just not so excited about bunga kantan. It is like garlic and onion..but I appreciate it like you do.

sarawakiana said...

Hi Bliss
I can empathise with lots of folks who have moved away from the riverine area. I used to live in places where my father and my uncles could just throw the jala into the water come home with pails of fish and prawns. But this is no longer the life of today. The water is too polluted in most places.

Bengbeng said...

then i should eat more kunga kiantan? :) for its antioxidant purposes. :) but unfortunately it is not easy to find in my local market or Everwin where i do my marketing

sarawakiana said...

Bunga Kantan is good for lots of things. Have you tried the wet market in Channel road?
I am sure it is very easy to plant. Get some cuttings from the kampong and you can have your bunga kantan every day . It is called kachalak in Iban.

justin said...

Bunga kantan is also used to help those who have poor apetite to want to eat again. I think it is the good smell from the flowers. And then when some sourish leaves or limes are added the food is even better.

ngoh said...

My relatives say that more people in Northern Region of Sarawak use bunga kantan than any where else. But I also believe that Northern West Malaysians use more too in their cooking.

sarawakiana said...

Justin I do agree with you. Bunga Kantan is so tantalising. And its pink colour makes a dish very attractive.
I always like it in my laksa.
Actually my first encounter with Bunga Kantan was in Penang - not in Sarawak.

sarawakiana said...

that's a nice observation. We must find out more about people's culinary delights.
Yes people from different regions have different tastes.
I have met people with strong opinions about food...And they are firm like rocks!

Garden of Zavier said...

苏丹鱼 < chinese name~!


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