Sweets and savoury dishes of every sort fill the special neighbourhood markets set up for Ramadan. While our kids binge on the colorful kuih and sugary drinks that they rarely get other times of the year, the wife and I are more likely to turn to a few basic dishes for the “few morsels needed to support our being”, as it were: our Malaysia Ramadan Essentials. One of these MREs is Ikan Masin, salted fish. There are more kinds of salted fish in the market than I have been able to identify, much less try, in 12 years of living here. Shark, mackerel, ikan gelama, many many more. They aren’t just salted, but somehow fermented during the process, so that they take on a flavor that is reminiscent of an aged sharp cheddar cheese: tangy, salty, crumbly and creamy-oily. The house favorite is ikan tenggiri, some kind of mackerel. I could tell you which kind but come on – how many kinds of mackerel can you identify anyway? We Americans don’t know from fish. Ok, Narrow-banded Spanish Mackerel. Doesn’t help, does it? So anyway, imagine a fishy version of old cheddar, crumbled and sauteed in tiny bit of oil with sliced garlic, onions, and dried chili peppers. Serve with fresh hot rice.
1. “No human ever filled a container more evil than his belly. The few morsels needed to support his being shall suffice the son of Adam. But if there is no recourse then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” – Nabi Muhammad, peace be upon him