Ikan Ceng Cuan is a Cina Benteng fish dish. For non-Indonesian, the term Cina Benteng might not be familiar. Cina Benteng is literally translated as Fortress Chinese or Benteng Chinese which refers to a community of Chinese Indonesians residing in Tangerang; located in Banten province of Indonesia. Tangerang is located on the west of Jakarta, about 25 kilometres from Jakarta. This community has been resided in Indonesia for more than 6 centuries.
The Cina Benteng itself doesn’t know what Ceng Cuan is meant while ikan is the Indonesian word for fish. Since Chinese Indonesian communities are known as Peranakan and the most important ingredients in Ikan Ceng Cuan is kecap manis and tauco (fermented yellow soy beans paste), so Ikan Ceng Cuan can be named for Peranakan Braised Ginger Fish in Kecap Manis and Tauco. For years, Tangerang has been known as a producer of kecap manis and tauco. FYI, there are many different variety of tauco in Indonesia depend on the area.
An interesting fact from this Cina Benteng community, even most of them do not speak Chinese language, they still adopt Chinese traditions including the use of Qing Dynasty (Manchu) wedding costumes. They are uniquely the only Chinese community in Indonesia with significant Manchu ancestry.
Ikan Ceng Cuan isn’t a party dish but it’s a daily dish, can be served any days of the year. Barracuda (Indonesian: ikan samge, ikan alu-alu, ikan kacang-kacang, barakuda) is the common fish to be used but if it’s served for a special day, they will use a milkfish. Milkfish is known for a luxurious fish in that area. However, people may substitute for king fish (or king mackerel). I myself adapted the recipe by using cod fish which I found cheap and whole at Hyundae Mart, a Korean store on Grant avenue. Most Indonesians also follow the Chinese rule in eating fish. A whole fish is better than fillet
Ikan Ceng Cuan
Peranakan Braised Ginger Fish
Adapted from Detik Food and Translated by Indonesia Eats
500 g whole barracuda (can be substitued for king fish, in this case I used whole scaled and guts cod
key lime/lime/calamansi (I used calamansi) for removing the fishy smell
a small amount of salt
5 shallots (use 3 if you have the bigger size of shallot), thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 centimeter ginger root, scrapped and julienned
3 tablespoons kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons tauco (fermented soy beans)
1 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 red cayenne peppers, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon raw canesugar (if you need it)
2 teaspoon salt (if you need it)
2-3 tablespoon cooking oil
200 mL water
Angle Cut of Red Cayenne Peppers
1. Rinse off your scaled and guts fish. Pat dry. Squeeze key lime/lime/calamansi over the fish. Rub a small amount of salt on fish.
2. Deep fry the fish until light brown not overly dry. Removed and drained. Lay fried fish on a piece brown paper to absorb the oil.
3. Heat up a wok at medium high. Add cooking oil. Stir fry shallot, garlic and ginger until yellowish or you can smell the aroma in the air.
4. Add tauco and kecap manis. Keep stirring and cook until kecap manis mixture is caramelizing and bubbling.
5. Add water, ground white pepper. Stir. Taste the sauce. Season with sugar and salt if you need it. Bring to a boil. Add fish and chilies.
6. Remove from heat. Plate the fish and sauce.