Monday, November 9, 2009

Dried Anchovies with Petai

I am taking the opportunity to revisit some of my favourite home cook dishes while my mum is visiting us from Malaysia.. This is a dish I requested from Mum to cook for lunch today. It is a dish of stir-fried dried anchovies, onions and 'Petai'. Petai is a kind of seed or bean that is bitter and have a very strong aroma, which makes this unusual delicacy an acquired taste. It is popular in South East Asia and North-eastern India. This beans are only available fresh in the SE Asia region, it is harvested from stringy twisted seed-pod on a tall tropical tree. They are available in Melbourne in small can, preserved in brine.

1 can (170g) Petai drained - use fresh beans where available
60g Dried anchovies (Ikan bilis)
1 Red chilli, sliced
4 tbsp of cooking oil
3 Big onions sliced
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Black soy sauce


  1. Heat the oil in the pan. Fry the dried anchovies.
  2. Remove and set aside the fried anchovies, leaving the oil in the pan.
  3. Stir fry the sliced onions and chili in the pan
  4. Next put the petai to fry with the onions.
  5. Dissolve the sugar in the soy sauce, and pour and stir in the pan.
  6. Lastly, shut the flame off and stir in the fried anchovies.

Mum's tips:
  • Taking care not to overfried the anchovies, as with any food it can impart a unpleasant bitter burnt flavour. Remember to control the heat when anchovies are about to be brown.
  • Optionally add a teaspoon of thick sweet black soy sauce ('Kicap manis') for colour
  • Do not brown onions until it caramelised as in Western cooking, preferable onions have a little bit of rawness.
  • Keep fried anchovies slightly crispy when stirred into the onions and petai to maintain contrasting texture. So drop the when you mix the crispy fried anchovies in.