A dish I cooked 13 years ago. That would have been a time when the girls were in college and living away from home on weekdays. This dish for two was surely meant for just my husband and myself.
There are four steps in cooking this tilapia dish:
- Grind the spices and cilantro to a paste.
- Saute the paste.
- Add the tilapia fillets.
- Pour in the coconut cream.
Simple, right? And so good. That’s why it’s worth updating a 13-year-old recipe. Now, let me show you a few photos to make those four simple steps even more understandable and doable.
These are the ingredients for the spice paste. Chilies (bird’s eye is our default here at home), ginger, garlic and cilantro roots and stems. Discard the stems of the chilies, peel and roughly chop the garlic and ginger, and chop the cilantro roots and stems as well.
Now, grind those four ingredients together with a bit of rock salt until the mixture looks like a coarse paste. You may use your mortar and pestle or, if you don’t have one or you want to work faster, go ahead and grind them in the blender or food processor. It’s not a crime to use modern gadgets to make the work lighter.
Heat oil in a wok or frying pan and saute the spice paste. Saute means cooking over medium heat and don’t forget to stir often. When the mixture darkens and solids start to separate from the oil, it’s time for the fish to go in.
Just lay the tilapia fillets side by side in the simmering sauce. You will need to flip them over once to ensure even cooking.
Then, just pour in your coconut cream, drizzle in fish sauce, stir and let everything cook together just until the sauce is bubbly. Fish doesn’t take long to cook, and fillets cook faster than bone-in fish.
Tilapia braised in spicy coconut cream
- 3 to 4 bird’s eye chili chopped
- 2 thumb-sized pieces ginger peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro roots and stems, chopped
- 1 teaspoon rock salt or ½ teaspoon refined salt
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 tilapia fillets
- ½ to ¾ cup coconut cream
- fish sauce
- cilantro leaves (to garnish)
- Pound and grind the chilies, ginger, garlic, salt and cilantro roots and stems using mortar and pestle or a small food processor until pasty.
- Heat the cooking oil in a pan. Add the paste. Saute until the solids start to separate from the oil.
- Add the tilapia fillets to the pan. Cook for about a minute then carefully turn over and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Pour in the coconut cream. Season with a tablespoon of fish sauce. Stir gently. Cook just until the sauce simmers.
- Taste the sauce and stir in more fish sauce, if needed.
- To serve, place the tilapia fillet over hot rice. Spoon some of the sauce around it.
- Chop the reserved cilantro leaves and sprinkle over the tilapia.