Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


A trip to the market. And Fish Balchao.

It had just gone two o’clock on Saturday afternoon and rain was threatening in an overcast slate grey sky but threatening was all it did. There was no wind but leaves were falling off autumn-yellow street trees – planes – and they fluttered to the ground in slow motion. I love autumn. Everything is in slow motion.

I drove the car in slow motion down Elizabeth Street, looking for a parking spot and found one near where the old blue and yellow Go Go Goodyear neon sign used to be, years ago. We angle-parked in front of a car dealership over which hung half a dozen sad flaccid flags advertising a run-out sale. Inside the otherwise deserted showroom, three black-suited salesmen were sitting around selling no cars but probably talking about last night’s football game.

T. and I got out of the car and we got William out of the car and we walked down to the Victoria Market, past camping shops and cheap printers and the Independent Order of Foresters building and a land sales office. We didn’t bother with the stroller. They’re too hard to negotiate in a crowded market. I carried William in my arms. I’m over six feet tall and he likes to ride right up there with me, high in a crowd where he can see everything. He had his blue beret on and a checked coat to keep him warm. He’s nearly eleven months old but he looked like a little laughing-eyed, red-cheeked Irishman. A leprechaun.

There was nothing slow motion about the fish hall. Around about this time on a Saturday, the stallholders start auctioning off trays of fish. "$10 for the whole tray!" Some have already sold out and are hosing down their stalls, splashing anyone who comes too close. The noise is deafening. We picked up a kilogram of rockling for $15.

Rockling Balchao

Process or grind into a paste: 10 peeled garlic cloves, 3” peeled and grated ginger, 15 whole dried red chillies, 4" of cinnamon, 15 cardomom pods, 15 cloves, 1 teaspoon each of whole black peppercorns and cumin seeds and half a cup of malt vinegar.

Cook: a cup of chopped onions in oil until browned. Then add a cup of chopped tomatoes and cook, stirring well, until softened. Add the paste above and saute until the oil separates from the paste. It will show a light sheen. Add a kilogram of rockling cut into one inch cubes or slices along with some crushed curry leaves, fresh if you can get them; otherwise dried, and cook, covered until just done. Fifteen minutes should do it. Towards the end of cooking time, add two teaspoons of brown sugar and stir well. Add salt to taste and serve with steamed rice.

This dish is intensely aromatic and flavoursome; both sweet and sour and very, very hot. The measures shown will provide enough for four. Adapted from a recipe I first tried last Christmas that I found at deccanheffalump's The Cook's Cottage.


rowena said...

I have never cooked rockling before but this recipe...I can just imagine the aroma that it must surely create while cooking. Forgive me but the ingredient list completely titillated my olfactory senses.

Sara said...

what's rockling like? i've never heard of it.

kitchen hand said...

Rowena, I'm more than happy to titillate your olfactories. The aroma of this dish is just amazing especially if all your spices are fresh.

Sara, rockling is a moist white-fleshed, non-oily, mild fish with few bones and firm, dense, large flakes. It holds its shape well in cooking so you can do anything with it. Here it's also known as pink ling. Ling sold in overseas markets can be a different fish altogether.

ASMO said...

I'm so new to blogs that I still say 'hello' and get surprised when I see that someone else than myself has picked this vividly orange template for a blog about food... Good choice! Will go back now to read some of your archives.

kitchen hand said...

Thanks for visiting, ASMO - likewise, I look forward to reading about the madeleine project!