Have you looked at your dinner, straight in the eye, and said "So, sorry, but we're gonna eat you" ? Well, I did. It's creepy thinking about how a moment ago they were still flippin' & floppin' in their little tank, waiting to be taken home and transformed into a beautiful dish by a skillful cook (not me, I could sense that they struggled a lotttt when they know I was gonna buy them, they tried to jump and throw themselves towards a bunch of convincingly "veteran cook" looking aunties). I can't blame them. At that point, I had no idea how was I gonna handle them.
Hong Kong is big on buying live fish, many of my friends' folks won't purchase a dead fish, it's gotta be swimming upon purchase, still jumping inside the plastic bag, and probably still trying to jump off the chopping board. That's how fresh they like their fish to be. If it ain't swimmin', it ain't no good.
I am not them. I love fresh fish, but I don't want my fish trying to jump off the chopping board, or refusing to leave the fridge. They might be swimming in their tank in the market, but they gotta be dead by the time I need to work 'em. Fortunately, I could tell the fish shop guy how I wanted to do my fish, and he would fix my fish accordingly. This time, we're doing the fish two ways. Sous chef is steaming his fish ala mama, and I am grilling mine ala me.
Spicy Steamed Pomfret
- 1 pomfret (or you can use other fish. I like fleshy fish with minimum amount of bones)
- a bit of ginger, sliced into matchstick pieces
- 3 red chilli, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- a handful of fermented black beans
- olive oil
- sugar, tiny bit of soy sauce
Clean the fish thoroughly. Place fish in a plate, arrange chopped ginger, garlic, chilli and fermented black bean on top and bottom of the fish. Drizzle some olive oil over. Steam for about 13 minutes (or longer/shorter depending on the size of the fish). Mix a bit of soy sauce and a bit of sugar. Once it is done (try picking the flesh with chopsticks/fork, the flesh should be white and relatively easy to pick), pour the soy sauce and sugar mix. Serve.
Spicy Grilled Pomfret
- 1 pomfret
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cloves shallot
- ground ginger
- ground cumin
- ground corriander seeds
- ground nutmeg
- ground chilli
- palm sugar
- terasi (shrimp paste), roasted
- white pepper
- lemon (zest and juice)
- olive oil
Ground everything (except the fish) in a food processor until it forms a paste. You can also use pestle and mortar to get a nice bicep going). Preheat oven to 250C. Score both sides of the fish, rub the spice paste all over the fish. Wrap fish in aluminium foil and grill for 10 minutes. Unwrap fish and grill until the skin's beautifully browned.
Both cooking methods yielded smooth and silky flesh texture. The steamed version gives you a tasty and flavorful juice, which was perfect to pour over a humble bowl of steamed rice, and the grilled version gives you a super spicy and crispy skin, each bite was a crackling delight.
I, again, failed to dress up the fishies before devouring them (I literally stripped the meat off every piece of the fishies' bone). So, please excuse the ugly pictures, folks!