The fruit of the tamarind tree is commonly sold in dried blocks containing seeds and fruit pulp. It’s reconstituted in warm water until the pulp dissolves, then the thick liquid is used to add a tangy sweet sour flavour to dishes.
1 x 800g Blue Warehou, scaled, gilled and gutted
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
3 Japanese eggplants, thinly sliced lengthways (see notes)
¼ cup coriander leaves
¼ cup Thai basil leaves
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve
60g dried tamarind pulp (see notes)
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 red shallots, finely sliced (see notes)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 small red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
4 coriander roots, scrubbed and finely chopped
100g palm sugar, grated
¼ cup fish sauce
Make Tamarind Sauce: Place the tamarind in a small bowl, cover with the boiling water and set aside until just warm. Using your fingers, work the flesh into the water, then strain out the seeds, reserving the tamarind liquid.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander root. Cook over a low heat until the shallots are golden and very soft. Add palm sugar and stir until dissolved. Add fish sauce and tamarind liquid, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
Trim the fish’s fins. Wipe the belly cavity of the fish thoroughly with a clean damp cloth to remove any trace of blood. Pat dry with paper towel and score both sides of the fish with 3 or 4 angled cuts through to the bone.
Heat oil in a wok to 180ºC.
Deep-fry the eggplant, in batches, until golden brown, drain on paper towel.
Carefully slide the fish into the oil and cook for 8-10 minutes spooning hot oil over the top of the fish several times until golden brown on both sides. Use two slotted spatulas to carefully lift the fish out of the oil. Place onto a serving platter. Arrange the fried eggplant around the outside then pour the tamarind sauce over the top and scatter with coriander and basil leaves. Serve with steamed rice.
Dried tamarind pulp is sold in blocks at Asian grocery stores, 30g is approximately a golf ball-sized piece.
If red shallots are unavailable, use 2 large golden shallots or 1 small red onion.
Japanese eggplants are long thin purple eggplants, sometimes also called slipper, or baby, eggplants.
Goldband Snapper, Morwong, Silver Warehou, Snapper or any of the Bream species.