spanish mackerel in spicy tomato sauce


Looking for a simple week-night dinner with a Vietnamese tang? Look no further! This dish is so simple yet flavourful and a cinch to make.

Where I live, Spanish Mackerel is called Batang or Tenggiri. It’s part of the mackerel family (duh!) but not as oily and a lot bigger. I once went sailing in the West Sumatran sea and my husband caught a 1.5m tenggiri weighing around 25kg. It was amazing to watch. The fish was so huge that it took 4 men to lift it off the water. Four (!) can you imagine? We immediately made sashimi out of it and it tasted even more amazing. Unlike salmon, it tasted clean and not fatty at all. It even had a citrusy kind of tang. The cook also made fish steaks for us later on that night and although it was really good, I wish he had known of this recipe when he made it.

Anyway, this is another Luke Nguyen recipe. I love him, he’s such a talented cook (more about him later when I review his book at the end of week 1).The great thing about this recipe is, it’s so quick that it’s perfect for a Wednesday night when you’ve got a zillion other things to do. It only took me 30 minutes from start to finish. That’s saying a lot, since I like to take my time in the kitchen. Just grab the fish on your way home from work and you’re ready to roll.. oh, grab some coriander leaves too while you’re at it.

Spanish Mackerel in Spicy Tomato Sauce


Adapted from: Luke Nguyen, Songs of Sapa, p. 152

serves 2

  • 2 Spanish mackerel steaks (150g each)
  • coarse sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (halved)
  • 1 big ripe tomato
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 red Asian shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bird’s eye chilli, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)
  • crunchy garlic bits (see recipe for vinaigrette dressing)
  • a bunch coriander leaves (for garnish)

For the Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil/ grape seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • salt
  • cracked black pepper


MAKE THE VINAIGRETTE FIRST. Get a strainer and a little bowl ready next to your stove. Heat the oil on a skillet over medium heat. When the oil seems hot enough, add the minced garlic. It will sizzle straight away. Stir continuously until the garlic starts to turn pale golden. When it hits that colour, strain the oil to the little bowl. You should have bits of garlic stuck on your strainer. Reserve the garlic bits.

In your little bowl of garlic oil, add the vinegar, sugar and water. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Have a taste and season accordingly, adding more vinegar/water/etc. to the mix if you feel the urge. Stir again to combine and set aside.

AS FOR THE FISH, season both steaks with salt and cracked black pepper on each side and drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside and let rest.

Half the tomato and scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon (or your fingers to save on the dirty dishes). Finely dice the flesh and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the fish steaks and fry for 2 minutes on each side until browned. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Using the same pan, fry the garlic, onion and shallots until the smell tingles your nose. Add the diced tomatoes, spring onion, fish sauce, sugar, chilli and the vinaigrette to the pan. Stir for 15 seconds and season with salt to taste. Simmer for a minute more. Depending on how juicy your tomato is, it should start to mush, releasing its liquid. If it looks too dry, add some water to the pan. Continue simmering until the sauce thickens.

Place a mackerel steak on each plate and pour the tomato sauce on top. Garnish with garlic bits you made earlier (from the vinaigrette) and some coriander leaves liberally (more than just a simple garnish, it really adds a layer of flavour to the finished dish, so don’t skip this if you can… I know, I know.. I totally forgot to put it on my steak before I snapped the picture). Serve with a simple lettuce salad or with hot jasmine rice. Bon appétit!


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