In the shadows of the widespread Peranakan Chinese , lies the Chitty Melaka or better known as the Peranakan Indians. Their cuisine, is a blend of both Indian and Malay ingredients and style of cooking.
Their history went as far back as the 15th century when Hindu traders populated Malacca. Inter-marriages were unavoidable, and the Chitty Melaka was born. The Chitty community has since scattered.Their cuisine is a beautiful combination of racial fusion and geographical culinary influences of Malacca, India and Singapore.They should not be confused with the Chettiars, the money lenders of that period.
In contrast to their Malay roots – whose cuisine focuses on sourness and spiciness – Chitty inclines to a more savory accent. Though with their Indian heritage, Chitty hardly use common Indian spices such as cardamom and cumin. Instead, a generous amount of belacan (chilli shrimp paste) is used, much like the Peranakan.
One distinct thing about Chitty food is also, it is not meat-bias. Indians love crab, while Malays like fish and sotong/squid.Indeed, when one look ,it is really a blend of both worlds.
Delving into the subject of Chitty has sparked my curiosity in many ways. I had also wanted to try any true Chitty dish .As such , I was lucky when I came across a chitty fish recipe– Lauk Pindang (Lemongrass Curry), or Serai Curry.
According to the source ,it is a very common Chitty everyday dish which many cooks , all the time.
The flavour comes from the spices, fish and salt only, no coconut milk is needed. So to all weight watchers out there, indulge away.At times of course ,they are some who uses a bit of coconut milk to make it rich !
There are indeed similarities between Asam Pedas and Lauk Pindang – a little sour and savoury. But Lauk Pindang is a gentler, milder yet robust version of it. It also has a well-balanced taste as no particular spices overtakes the flavour.
The gravy is easy on the palate, if you are good with chilli heat(otherwise go easy on the dried chilli used) and the soft bite of the fresh fish meat, washed down with fragrant rice.
A common Chitty dish, but rarely seen in the local culinary scene.
5 pieces of Spanish mackerel/batang fish
7 pieces dried chilli, sliced
4 buah keras (candlenut), halved
8 small onions, chopped
3 pieces of lemongrass, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp of turmeric powder
2 cups of water
Clean and wash ,and cut in thin slices the fish, put it aside.
Grind the dried chillies either in a blender or with pestle and mortar
(*Add about 1.5 tablespoons of water if you’re using a blender)
Add turmeric powder, buah keras/candlenuts, lemongrass, 2 tomatoes, onions and garlic into the blended chilli
Further blend the mixture into a paste
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pot and throw paste in. Stir-fry until it is fragrant, about 3 minutes
Add water to make in to a gravy
Once the gravy boils leave to simmer ,then add the 1 tomato(halve) and sliced fish
(*If you prefer it to be more tangy, add tamarind juice)
Let the gravy simmer over low heat for 10mins and it is ready to be served.
Taste the gravy and add salt as you deem fit