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1. Prepare fish as directed below. Pat dry with paper towels, sprinkle lightly with salt, and set aside. 2. In a mortar, food processor, or blender, combine onion, garlic, lemongrass, shrimp paste (if used), chiles, and galangal and process to a paste. 3. Pat fish dry again and dust liberally with cornstarch, rubbing it into cuts in sides. 4. Fill a wok or deep skillet with oil to a depth of at least 2 inches (allow room for oil to rise when fish is added). Heat oil to 375 degrees F. Carefully add fish to oil, placing it on its side. Ladle oil over any exposed part of fish. Fry fish on both sides, turning once with slotted spoons or Chinese wire skimmer, until a skewer easily penetrates thickest part. Lift fish out of oil and let drain over pan, then transfer to warm serving platter. 5. Turn off heat under frying oil, allow to cool, and reserve for frying fish another time. in another skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat (some of the frying oil can be used for this step). Add seasoning paste and cook, stirring, until quite fragrant. Add yellow bean sauce, cook another few seconds, and add Tamarind Water and sugar. Cook sauce until slightly thickened. 6. Blot away any accumulated oil from fish platter and pour sauce over fish. Garnish with sprigs of coriander, if desired. Serves 4 with other dishes. Like poultry, fish retains its flavor and moisture better if cooked whole with the bones. To prepare a whole fish for frying or steaming, follow these steps. 1. Have fish cleaned and scaled, with head and tail left on. Cut open bell cavity, if this was not done in cleaning. Pull away any bits of gills and internal organs. Look for two strips of red tissue lying alongside backbone; if present, cut them open wit tip of knife. Rinse cavity well under running water until no trace of bloody tissue remains. 2. Score both sides of fish with diagonal cuts almost to the bone, 1 to 2 inches apart. This speeds the cooking time and allows the seasonings to penetrate the fish faster. if you want to serve a steamed or fried fish @(swimming" on the platter (belly side down), cut back from cavity toward tail on one side of bones, extending the cavity toward the tail. Spread the rib cage open and arrange the fish upright on the steaming plate, bending the tail to fit, if necessary. From the California Culinary Academys "Southeast Asian Cooking", Jay Harlow, published by the Chevron Chemical Company, 1987. ISBN 0-89721-098-0.
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