I love ‘ikang singgang’ or ikan singgang in standard speak; and I guess so do most of Terengganu folks that I know. The singgang soup or ‘kuah singgang’ is so tasty that mum has to cook extra rice whenever she cooks the dish.
In our family ‘ikang singgang’ should be accompanied by ‘ikang panggang’ (grilled fish), a good quality ‘budu’ (a special sauce from Terengganu), ‘ppoyok’ or tempoyak (fermented durian), ‘lada jarung’ (bird’s eye chili) and ‘ulang’ or ulam (Malaysian salad) especially ‘pucuk jambu golok’ or pucuk gajus in standard speak (cashew shoots).
‘Ikang singgang’ is a simple dish – mum would boil some asam, galangal, turmeric and garlic in a pot of water. Next, she’ll add some fish and soon we’ll be sniffing the mouth watering aroma of tasty boiling ‘ikang sinnggang’ that sends us running to the kitchen asking how much longer we have to wait for our lunch. ‘Ikang singgang’ can be eaten hot or cold and some even prefer overnight ‘ikang singgang’. One can just add the ‘ikang singgang’ to their rice but both of my grandfathers prefer to first mix some ‘ppoyok’ and crush some green chilies in the ‘kuah’ (soup) before eating. Some, like nenek (my grandmother) prefers fresh durian instead of ‘ppoyok’.
According to mum, the right choice of fish and the freshness of the fish plays an important role in producing a good ‘kuah singgang’. The most popular fish for this dish is ‘
ikang aye’ or ikan tongkol. There are 3 types of ‘ikang aye’ but the tastiest is the ‘ikang aye itang’. Infact ‘ikang aye itang’ is the prime choice in most of Terengganu fish dishes.
Next is how to prepare ‘budu’. First one has to buy a good quality ‘budu’. We can buy ‘budu’ easily but a good ‘budu’ is hard to get even in Terengganu. Squeeze a bit of lime juice and add a bit of ‘kuah singgang’, mix in some ‘ppoyok’, crush in some ‘lada jarung’ and garnish the ‘budu’ with some shallots and lemon grass. And do not forget the ‘pucuk jambu golok’ or cashew shoots.
A friend of dad (whose wife is not from Terengganu) used to complain that only Terengganu women can cook authentic ‘ikang singgang’ and he always misses his ‘kuah ikang singgang’ in KL. A not so tasty ‘kuah ikang singgang’ tastes ‘cero’. My conclusion is it is not that easy to cook a good ‘kuah ikang singgang’ after all!