June 19, 2009

Two Ways with Fish & A Happy Father's Day!

I took fresh fish, or seafood in general, for granted while I was home in Malaysia. Since my arrival in this landlocked area in the U.S., I've been extremely deprived of seafood. I remember there were some live seafood, including fish, shrimps (or prawns,) crabs, lobsters and other kinds of shellfish at the Asian grocers down in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. They were only sacrificed upon customers' requests, which has been a typical Asian way of consuming not just seafood but anything edible including produce and livestock. In other words, the fresher the better.

Too bad, this mini town doesn't have any Asian grocers! Can you believe it? We non-locals have to travel back and forth on the road for eight hours just to get the missing ingredients every once in a while to stock them up. (Well, I am considered a jobless graduate now! *sobbing*) As an outsider, I wonder what'd happen if Americans are left deprived of milk, cheese, peanut butter and pops (this is a Midwestern term for soft drinks.) This is so unfair!

The local supermarkets definitely stock up on some seafood. But, it's all previously frozen and expensive. Though I tried to, I couldn't help myself but to get a couple of tilapia from the market a while back. So to justify the money spent, I was determined to get the best out of them. And, each fish was treated in two different ways. One fish was steamed. (I know, I know ... Frozen fish is a bad choice for steaming, but I was craving for it terribly!) This is what we'd call Hong Kong-style steamed fish (港式淸蒸), which is the method that my family's been using to savor fresh fish. Obviously, it's our favorite! I learned how to make this healthy dish from my father by observing him while he was in action in the kitchen. (I love you Dad!) Whenever we have this, my youngest brother and I will battle over the slightly sweetened soy sauce so that we get to drizzle it over the rice. This sauce is so appetizing that we'll finish our share of rice in a few big gulps! (好惹味0架!)

The other fish was shallow-fried and served with slightly sweetened black bean sauce. I'm not sure where the idea of preparing this dish came from. But I sort of remember having fish served this way at a restaurant back home. Hmm ... So, I recreated it based on my vague memory of it. Very good indeed!

By the way, Chinese cooking is done through eyeballing. In my opinion, understanding the ingredients and methods as well as experience are the essentials to mastering it. So, the following is just a rough guideline And, here's how I did: 

Hong Kong-Style Steamed Fish 港式淸蒸魚 

1 medium-sized fish (I used tilapia 非洲鯽/魚)

Some salt & sugar, to taste 
Shaoxing cooking wine (紹興料酒) 

2~3 stalks of spring onion, with stems removed and cut into smaller sections 
4~5 big slabs of fresh ginger

some oil, for cooking 
3 big slices of fresh ginger, thinly shredded 
2 stalks of spring onion, with stems removed, cut into smaller sections and separate them according to the green and white parts 

1.5 Tbsp sugar, or to taste 
1~1.5 cups light soy sauce (生抽) 

Some ground white pepper 
1/4~1/3 tsp sesame oil, or to taste--not too much though because it'll backfire

some fresh parsley, for garnishing
  1. Place a steaming rack over the wok, then fill it with enough water until it's about 5cm/2 inches below the rack. Bring it to a full rolling boil over high heat (Or, you can steam the fish in a steamer.)
  2. Meanwhile, wash and clean the fish, then make a deep cut across the fish's stomach. (Of course, the interior is cleaned and cleared thoroughly.) Rub (A) all over the fish [not too much though because it's just for seasoning and the wine is to help remove the fishy smell] Stuff (B) into the stomach. (Err ... I meant arrange it, not stuffing the ingredients into the fish like how you'd stuff a turkey.)
  3. Place the fish onto a plate and when the water in the wok has reached a rolling boil, steam it over high heat for 10~15 minutes or till cooked
  4. Meanwhile, in a smaller wok, heat up some oil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-high and stir-fry to sauté the thinly shredded ginger, add in the white part of the spring onion to stir-fry along till fragrant
  5. Add in the 1.5 Tbsp sugar and cook till caramelized, then pour in the light soy sauce and turn down the heat slightly. Cook until the mixture starts to boil, throw in the green part of the spring onion and season with (C)
  6. When the fish is cooked, remove it from the wok/steamer and pour the hot sweetened soy sauce over it.
  7. Garnish with some fresh parsley, and serve the fish while it's still hot
Fried fish with preserved black bean sauce 豆豉醬煎魚 

1 medium-sized fish (I used tilapia 非洲鯽/魚) 
some salt and sugar, to taste 
4~5 slabs of fresh ginger

3~4 Tbsp cornflour 
1 Tbsp rice flour

1~1.5 cups oil, for shallow-frying

1 shallot, minced 
2 slices of ginger, minced 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1~1.5 Tbsp preserved fermented black beans (豆豉), mashed well (Use previously mashed ones 磨豉 if you have) 

1~1.5 tsp brown sugar 
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce 老抽

1.5~2 cups water

1 tsp cornflour 
1 tsp water
  1. Heat up the oil in a wok over high heat. Meanwhile, wash and clean the fish, then make a deep slit across its stomach and place in the slabs of ginger. Rub some salt and sugar all over it.
  2. Combine (D) together and generously coat the fish with the flour mixture. Lower to medium heat, then gently place the fish into the hot oil and shallow-fry until each side is golden in color
  3. Remove the fish from oil and place onto a kitchen paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.
  4. Meanwhile, leave a little bit of the oil in the wok and heat it up over high heat. Stir-fry to sauté shallot, followed by garlic and then ginger till fragrant. Add in mashed preserved black beans and stir-fry till fragrant.
  5. Add in (E) and stir-fry till blended, then pour in the water and bring to a boil. Lower to medium-low heat and cook till the water has evaporated for a bit
  6. Dissolve together (F) to get a slurry, and mix into the sauce mixture. Turn up the heat to high and cook till the sauce mixture has thickened. Remove from heat.
  7. Arrange the fried fish on a serving plate, and pour the sauce over it. Serve immediately
By the way, a very Happy Fathers' Day to all the fathers out there, including my father, my late grandfather and American "father" Steve! To my beloved late Grandpa (爺爺), I'm sorry I'm unable to be home in time to see you for the one last time. Please take care along the way. I love and miss you so. I'll keep my promises. Thanks for the love, care and support that you've given me. Without you, I wouldn't be where I am now! Thank you!


pigpigscorner said...

Great ways to enjoy fish! Sigh...I feel the same. We can't get any fresh seafood here either.

Emily said...

Hey, that looks familiar. Just wanted to let you I stopped by, and your pictures turned out good! Yum! See you sometime

eliza said...

love this kind of this, great photo too!

hazza said...

You make me realise how lucky I am, even though in the UK, I can easily get all kinds of fish, fresh and frozen. Tilapia is sold everywhere and very cheap too.

Pei-Lin said...

@pigpigscorner: Thanks for making me feel better LOL!!

@Emily: Thanks a lot for dropping by! Thanks for loaning the graduation robe and hat(?) Hope you guys like the pineapple tarts!

@eliza: Things like steamed fish are definitely a comfort food! Thanks for the encouraging words and stopping by!

@hazza: Thanks for stopping by. Lucky you! I miss fresh seafood so badly!!! We all know that fish & chips is like the national food in U.K. So, does that mean that only certain parts of the country are more accessible to fresh seafood?

jo said...

Hi Pei-Lin, both are excellent recipes in preparing fish. But my favourite has to be the fried one with the black bean sauce. The pics are making me drool .. oh dear!

Pei-Lin said...

Haha ... *blushing* Thanks for dropping by Jo! I love both because fish is the best meat around. I don't mind if I've just engulfed the whole fish LOL!

Jackie @PhamFatale.com said...

Amazing food photography! I've always wondered how they make this fish at my local restaurant. The result is splendid!

Pei-Lin said...

Sorry for this late reply! It's long overdue I know!

Thanks for the encouragement! You ought to try these sometime! :)

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