Fish and nuts

Anchovies or ikan bilis is a very popular snack in South East Asian countries. In fact, it's a very popular pizza topping in the West. Nasi lemak - rice cooked in coconut milk is never complete without a serving of these tiny fried crisp fishies. They are rich in calcium and minerals.

Peanuts and anchovies are a match made in heaven. They're tossed together in a paste made of chillies, garlic, onion and belachan (shrimp paste).  I love the flavour that kaffir lime imparts so that too gets added in. Almost every supermarket in Singapore has packs of these ready to eat snacks. The problem is that they do not last long - they get devoured that fast. Now I've taken to bringing packs of dry anchovies back with me so that I can make it anytime the craving hits.

These fish are also available in Chennai but you may have to pinch off the heads before using them. Not really necessary though. Wash them quickly and drain in a colander.

Once you're done with the cooking, watch how fast they disappear! They can liven up a boring meal and are fantastic with drinks. The best thing is that you can play around with the quantity of fish and nuts. In my family, they like more nuts...

Here's my rendition of the popular bar snack.

Fish and nuts

100 gm dried anchovies
500 gm raw peanuts
8 -10 dried chillies, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
6 shallots
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (belachan, optional)
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
4 tbsp sugar

Wash the anchovies, drain in a colander.
Spread out for about 10 minutes on kitchen towels.

Heat a cup of oil in a wok, fry the peanuts on medium heat till light gold ( I wait for them to "pop"and then turn the heat to medium.
Remove onto kitchen towels.
Add more oil into the wok, heat oil to medium hot and fry the fish in 4 batches.
Fry the fish till crisp, remove onto kitchen towels and do subsequent batches.

Grind together the chillies, shallots, garlic and prawn paste to a fine paste with a little water.
Clean the wok, fill with 3 tablespoons of fresh oil.

Heat it and fry the ground paste and tamarind paste. Add in the kaffir lime leaves.
When the paste has been well sauteed but not completely dry, add in fried nuts, fish, salt to taste and sugar.

Stir well to combine.
Cool and bottle, store in the fridge.


  1. Anchovies are nethili karuvadu in tamil. Are these salted ones or non salted?

  2. Yes, that's what they're called. They come salted so you neef to wash then to remove excess salt & dirt. Wash and drain immediately.


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