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Malay Fish Curry and Achar

Most of us think of fish dishes as mild, with flavors that kiss the palate and linger like a first kiss: lemon, dill, parsley, cream and so on.

There’s another way to flavor fish: Hot curry. This one arrives on the tongue like a torrid but doomed love affair, full of heat and zest, leaving you wishing for more.

There; I’ve done my duty for literary patter. On to the food!

I’m not a big fan of fish, but in Malaysia you should do as the Malays (and other ethnic groups) do; eat fish in hot curry. So I tried some. The good news is, it turned my hair red once again. The bad news, it turned my face, and indeed any skin I could see, about as red. I’m sure there was smoke pouring out my nose and ears.

Then it began to settle down, and I could taste the other flavors: galangal, tamarind, turmeric and coconut. The sweetness helped moderate the heat, after a bit. I found I was not quite ready for it all to end when the fish was gone, rather like that love affair I mentioned.

I also enjoyed the achar, which sat in a little bowl next to my plate at the beginning of the meal. I found it handy to cleanse the palate and refresh my singed tastebuds for more fish. And at the end, there was still some left to help alleviate the pain. Like the girl who waited while you worked out that doomed love affair, she’s there at the end to help you pick up the pieces.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop. But it’s true, you can use the achar most every day and not get burned. The curry, that’s an occasional fling…

Enjoy the (Flaming Curry) Heat!

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