2 medium, fresh Spanish mackerel (about 600 grams each), clean and drain well
1 - 1/2 heaped teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
freshly ground white pepper
4 pieces square semi-firm tofu, drain well, half diagonally, make a small slit on the cut side
6 pieces tau foo pok (deep fried tofu balls), half diagonally, make a small slit on the cut side
4 pieces bean curd skin sheets, dampen with a wet cloth, cut into half (about 4x6-inch rectangles), trim uneven edges, reserve trimmings
1 medium long eggplant, slice at an angle, slice horizontally almost to the edge
1 small bitter gourd, remove seeds and slice at an angle
1 yellow bell pepper (I used yellow due to the color scheme) , remove seeds, cut into 8 pieces
6 fresh red chilies, remove seeds, slit lengthwise
4 ladies finger/okra, remove some seeds, slit lengthwise
a small bowl of salted water
1 beaten egg (to seal rolled stuffed bean curd skin)
about 2 cups peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying
3 tablespoons tauchu (Chinese fermented soy bean, if unavailable, Japanese miso or Korean Doenjang are good substitutes)
3 tablespoons sugar
5 cloves garlic, minced finely
5 shallots, minced finely
2 centimeters ginger, minced finely
5 tablespoons hot chili sauce (use Sriracha sauce, sambal paste or add freshly chopped birds eye chili for more heat)
juice and zest of 1 lime
a few sprigs of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Prepare the fish paste: On a large chopping board, fillet the fish from tail to head on one side, avoiding the dorsal and ventral frame, but taking off the gill bone/operculum (just below the head) along with the fillet, leaving the head intact (refer to fishy photos above). Set the fillet aside. With a small spoon, scrape the fish meat off the bone from head to tail. Repeat the filleting and scraping with the other side. Place the fish skeleton aside. Repeat scraping the fish meat off the fillets, holding on to the fin bone, not tearing the skin. Repeat with the other fish. Reserve fish skeletons and trimmings in a freezer bag for stews, stocks or congee.
Clean the chopping board and dampen slightly with a splash of water. In a small cup or bowl, mix the salt with the water well. With a cleaver or a large knife, chop up the gathered fish meat into a rough mince. (Fresh sea mackerel meat is naturally sticky; you will need to scrape off the cleaver/knife constantly from this point.) Add about 1/3 of the salt water and a dash of pepper to the mince; continue chopping to mix in the seasoning. Repeat the seasoning and chopping twice until all salt water is used up.
Divide paste into two balls. Set one ball to the edge of the chopping board. Lift the other one up at least about 1 1/2 feet away from the board and throw it onto the center of the board with force. (Caveat: Aim well.) Gather it back and repeat this (rather fun) bit about 10 times. (Avoid overdoing this, although it's a good way to reduce some pent up anger (if any), as it will result in a tough instead of springy fish paste.) Repeat with the other half of the mince. Slap the two halves of mince against each other and gather into one slab. At this point, you can divide the paste into portions if not using all of it immediately. Wet hands, smooth out the paste all around with some water and store in a freezer-safe container. Fish paste keeps up to 3 months in the freezer.
Prepare the stuffed items: If fish paste is chilled, bring it to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu and other items for stuffing. Set aside a small bowl of salted water. Use
a small butter knife to stuff the tofu (be extra gentle with this one), fried tofu balls and vegetables. The amount of paste to use varies, generally chilies, ladies finger and bitter gourd use up more filling. Clean up the edges and smooth out the fish paste with some salted water. (Avoid overstuffing the tofu and vegetables as they may tear/break during frying.) For the bean curd skins, spread a thin layer of fish paste on each sheet (short side facing you), add on some of the trimmings, then roll the sheet up and away. Seal the edges with a little bit of beaten egg. Lay out all the stuffed items on a platter/tray to prepare for frying.
Prepare the dipping sauce: If using whole bean tauchu (whole bean, not paste, is of better quality), finely chop up the beans together with the sugar. In a medium bowl, mix well all the sauce ingredients except the coriander. Set aside.
Cook the stuff items and sauce: In a large wok or a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat up oil over medium heat and fry the stuffed items by batches, starting with the vegetables and ending with the fresh tofu. Lay the stuffing side down to cook the fish paste, then flip over and around to cook the vegetable/tofu, about 4-5 minutes each side.