Mabong, or Indian mackerel, is one of those small, blue-skinned fishes, like sardines, that are easily found fresh in coastal areas and almost impossible anywhere else — which is a shame, because not only are they delicious, they’re also more sustainable than big fish like salmon and tuna. My favorite way to eat this kind of fish, especially if it’s small, is simply grilled with salt. In Malaysia, it’s usually stuffed with sambal (chili-and-herb paste) and then grilled or, more commonly, fried. I wanted to try it for dinner tonight, but a proper sambal is labor- and ingredient-intensive, so I took some shortcuts, and it turned out pretty well. Below is my recipe for semi-lazy sambal-stuffed fish. (If I were really lazy, I would have just gotten it at the hawker stall.)
(Proportions are for two fish. One fish per person should be enough, depending on side dishes.)
2 whole small fish, such as horse mackerel or sardine, cleaned
2 Tbsp chili paste (I used a Malaysian brand, Puteri, but Vietnamese-style paste would work in a pinch. Just make sure that the ingredients are mostly chili, without other flavorings)
1 very small shallot (probably about 1/4 of a normal shallot)
Juice of 1/2 lime, or two calamansi limes
- Rinse the fish and pat dry. Rub well with salt, and set aside.
- Mince the shallot as finely as possible, and combine with the chili paste and lime juice.
- Make a slit along the sides of the fish. Stuff the chili paste into the slits and also the cavity.
- Grill, broil, or pan-fry fish until done.
By the way, if you’re interested in trying your hand at the real thing, Rasa Malaysia has a very thorough recipe. And then you’ll understand why I cheated.