Sunday, July 05, 2015

Singaporean Roti John with Sardines

Singaporean Roti John with Sardines 1

Considering how much I love the Banh Mi Ca Moi (Vietnamese Sardine Sandwich), when I came across mention of a sardine sandwich in Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan's "A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family," I knew I had to try making it. Her friend, who is a chef, suggested cutting the fishiness of the sardines with sesame oil. I don't know if it really made that much of a difference for me since I like sardines, but you could certainly try that if you wish.

Read my recipe for Singaporean Roti John with Beef which includes the background history of the British, Malay, Indian, Singaporean influences that went into the creation of this sandwich. Since the sardines are already cooked, this version is a little quicker since you don't have to cook the meat before adding the eggs. I removed the bones and mashed the sardines with the eggs, scallions, and chili paste. Drizzled sesame oil to cook the mixture before placing the toasted bread on top. If you really want to cut the fishiness of the sardine sandwich though, I'd suggest stuffing it with slices of cucumbers and tomatoes.

Banh Mi Ca Moi (Vietnamese Sardine Sandwich)

Banh Mi Ca Moi (Vietnamese Sardine Sandwich) 1

I admit, I don't come across too many recipes for sardines. I love them; the savory, soft fish in tangy chili tomato sauce. I usually eat them the way my mom served them when I was growing up -- reheating the sardines in a small pan on the stove top and adding a few dashes of fish sauce for flavor. Then, I'd either stuff them into toasted Vietnamese-French bread or use the bread to mop up the fishy tomato sauce.

So really, that's not much of a recipe. Nor is it very photogenic. But there's no reason why you can't make a full Vietnamese sandwich with sardines, complete with pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber slices, and sprigs of cilantro. In fact, the fresh vegetables are the perfect pairing to balance the fishiness of sardines.

Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce)

Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce) 1

I've said before, that when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, cooking with dill is something that is more common in the north. It's most well-known in Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill), but I also encountered Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce) when I was in Hanoi in 2005.

It was on a boat trip down the Red River with stops at a few temples along the way, including Tien Dung Chu Dong Tu Temple, also known as the Temple of Love. There's a great story about Princess Tien Dung, daughter of Hung Vuong III, who wasn't all that interested in marriage and amused herself by exploring the countryside with her entourage.

Chu Dong Tu was a poor fisherman, who took turns sharing one loincloth between him and his father. When his father died, he borrowed clothes for the funeral and buried his father with the only loincloth. Since he had no clothes, he fished at night and during the day, he stayed in the water when selling his fish in order to conceal his nakedness.

Then one day, the princess approached his riverbank and decided it was so pretty that she wanted to bathe there. He dug a hole in the sand and attempted to hide behind some cattails, whereupon he was discovered by Princess Tien Dung. I guess she liked what she saw, decided fate had sent this man to her, and married him there and then. The long addendum to the story includes her being disinherited by the king, him becoming a Taoist monk and then a saint, a magical palace made of jewels that was whisked up to the heavens, and a temple built in its place to honor their love.

A boat cruise, a temple, a love story, and lunch was included! I don't remember what else was served, and honestly, the dish wasn't even that memorable, but the fantastic love story and the idea of braised fish with tomato dill sauce stayed with me.

If you like Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce), then this dish will be familiar. I used salmon, since it's often paired with dill in Western dishes. I pan-fried the salmon steak first so it would hold its shape better in a quick braise. A few tomatoes, shallots, garlic, dill, and fish sauce gets simmered until it thickens. The dill is cooked with the sauce; not tossed as a garnish at the end.

I can't promise that fate will throw true love your way if you make this dish, but hopefully my little anecdote amused you enough to try making it?