Tumis Bawang Merah: Sauteed Shallots and Chillies with Chinese Silver Fish

Tumis bawang merah is an addictive dish that’s currently trending on social media, consisting of sauteed shallots with chillies and Chinese silver fish, or whitebait.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

I have to admit it isn’t easy juggling a corporate life with blogging. In between rushing to meet all the deadlines, meetings, hitting company targets and tons of other things, I continuously think of what to cook for the upcoming weekend. How am I going to organize the shopping, cooking, taking photos, writing, and all the necessary details involved to create the blog content? My mind is like a circus, busy juggling all the things that need to be done.

Though super hectic, I enjoy the process. There is a sense of accomplishment when I can successfully execute one task after another, especially when the end result is what I want. To avoid chaos, good time management and planning are a must for me.

But, sometimes, unexpected things happen. Like when my mind wandered while online grocery shopping, and my finger hit the ‘buy’ button without checking the list properly. I had accidentally pressed the order quantity for shallots 4 times, and ended up with almost 1 kg of shallots delivered to my door!

When life gives you lemon, you make lemonade. Nobody mentions shallots though! 

I was initially thinking about using it to make fried shallots or bawang goreng, since it’s one of the most important and indispensable garnishes in Indonesian cooking. But then, I remembered that around 2018, there was a viral recipe using shallots as the main ingredient. The recipe was quite simple and I have cooked it several times, and I like it. 

Lately, the recipe has resurfaced on social media. The difference between the old recipe and the new is just that the old recipe uses sliced shallots, while the new trending one uses whole bulbs. But both versions are referred to as tumis bawang merah or stir fried shallots. 

When people post this recipe, most of them will include this caption: Awas, habis nasi sebakul! That’s a warning that the dish can potentially make you finish the entire serving of rice. That is just the nature of the dish! Tumis bawang merah is spicy and salty, thus it has to be eaten with rice. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. It’s just addictive. 

Shallots are one of the most important spices in Indonesian cooking. The flavor is more delicate and slightly sweeter than the onion, and it releases a very pleasant and appetizing fragrance when cooked. 

Tumis bawang merah is very sharp and pungent from the salted fish and shrimp paste, but that is exactly what makes it so appealing for Indonesians. We just love that strong pungent smell and the spiciness! To make it even stronger, many will add petai beans. People also use dried salted squid instead of dried Chinese Silver fish, which has an equally pungent aroma and a sharp salty flavor. 

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Tumis Bawang Merah: Sauteed Shallots and Chillies with Chinese Silver Fish

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Stir-frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal

Description

Tumis bawang merah is an addictive dish that’s currently trending on social media, consisting of sauteed shallots with chillies and Chinese silver fish, or whitebait.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 200 gr shallots, peeled, thickly sliced
  • 100 gr bird’s eye chillies, remove the stem, slice diagonally
  • 0.5 tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • 50 gr salted dried Chinese silver fish (whitebait)
  • Cooking oil for deep frying and sauteing

 


Instructions

  1. Wash, pat dry and deep fry the dried salted fish over medium heat until golden (around 4 minutes). Set aside.
  2. Remove some of the oil from the wok, leaving around 2 tbsp oil.
  3. Over medium heat, fry the roasted shrimp paste for a few seconds, then add the sliced shallots. Fry for about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the sliced chillies, and continue frying for another 3 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat, add the fried salted fish and mix thoroughly.
  6. Transfer the dish onto a serving plate.

Notes

For this recipe, the shallots can be either thickly sliced or left whole. If left whole, the shallots will be juicier and slightly sweet.

Keywords: whitebait, fried shallots

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