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This is a great way to cook a whole fish and the Malaysian flavours are very tantalising to the taste buds. I used a kingfish but you could just about use any fresh whole fish really.
Score both sides of the fish with deep diagonal cuts
Season the fish inside and out with a little salt making sure to get some in the scored cuts
Allow the fish to stand while you prepare the paste. Preheat oven to 220C
Place shallots, garlic, tamarind paste and candlenut powder into a blender and mix to a smooth puree
Now add spice powders, chilli, shrimp paste and salt. Mix again to combine
Turn out paste into a deep pan and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly
Add coconut cream a third at a time stirring through to combine creating a thick sauce
Prepare two or three sheets of strong foil long enough to fit the fish and be able to enclose the fish within like a parcel
Place the fish in the centre of the foil sheets and bend the sides of the foil up to form a rim
Using a teaspoon place generous spoonfuls of the sauce inside the cuts previously scored then place a slice of lime inside the cuts
Pour the remaining sauce inside, under and over the fish being careful not to let the sauce spill over the sides of the foil
Bring the foil together to seal the sides and enclose the fish and the sauce
Transfer fish parcel to an oven proof dish and place in hot oven. Bake for 20 minutes
Remove dish from oven and allow to stand for 5 - 10 minutes
Carefully open sealed foil allowing any hot steam to escape, retain the foil as a base tray as it will hold the sauce
Garnish the fish with fried shallots and spring onions
Serve hot on a bed of steamed jasmine rice
I have tested this recipe with a 1.2 kg kingfish, which is a thinner shaped fish. The cooking time may vary based on the size of the fish and its shape too.
If you cannot get a hold of candlenuts replace them with cashews
You can also use toasted whole spices and nuts and crush them in a large mortar and pestle before adding the remaining ingredients to create the puree. The result is a more deeper flavoured sauce that is quite rewarding.
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