In our family, salted fish was always a side dish on the dining table be it for a porridge breakfast, or for lunch, dinner and supper. Being Hakkas, our cooking have a bias towards preserved food whether vegetables, meat or fish. It is part of our clan history as nomads during the thousands of years our ancestors moved around China. In fact, the very name "Hakka" or "客家" means "Guest people".
In the past, my mum often made her own salted fish, particularly eels, as she said that the ones made commercially were not so tasty. So recently, when she said that she wanted salted eel, I had to trot off to the market to look for fresh eels. After a couple of unsuccessful forays to the fish markets, I finally found some at the 3rd Mile Market, Kuching.
Now to make the salted eel.
First, de-fin and de-gut the eels and use the handle of a spoon to gouge out the "spinal cord" along the length of the fish. Wash and the cut the eel into about 4" lengths.
Add salt and mix to make sure that the fish is coated with salt.
Lay out on a rack and allow all excess water to drain off. I did this in a sealed container with a draining rack inside. Leave in a fridge for about 3 days.
Next is to dry the wet salted fish. I laid out the fish on a large enamel tray and then covered with a fine stainless steel netting to keep out any flies. The trays need to be out in the sun for a couple of days until the salted fish is dry but not hard. The fish should look like those below.
Once done, put the dried salted fish into a tightly sealed container and store in a fridge. Just take you what you need and fried until golden brown ...
Eaten with porridge or rice, it is a great side dish to improve your appetites - especially when you are feeling poorly without much of an appetite!!