Monday, February 07, 2011
Chinese-style Steamed Fish with Sizzled Ginger and Scallions
Having a food blog can give a false impression of one's culinary prowess. Sure, I can freestyle a healthy kale & quiona pilaf, bake up a rustic-yet-elegant rosemary honey apple galette, and decorate deliciously naughty baby shower cookies. But behind the scenes are my secret failures. For one, there's my inability to produce a decent pot of rice. Rice, people. I don't know if it's my proportions, my pot, or my inability to let it cook without peeking (or some combination of the three), but it's never that absolutely perfect rice of my dreams. And another: no matter my best intentions, I seem constitutionally incapable of preparing fish without overcooking it. Until now.
The secret to my newfound success? Steaming. I've pan-fried, baked and roasted before, but never steamed. Which is a shame, because this method is great: the gentle heat lets the fish cook slowly and evenly, and the steam keeps it nice and moist. The subtle flavor of the fish comes through clearly, and even repeat offenders like me end up with a perfectly-cooked dish.
This particular recipe comes from my friend Sally Li, who prepared it for a recent dinner in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Fish is an auspicious new year's menu item, its characters sounding like the word for abundant wealth. And who doesn't want that? Any fish dish will suffice, but Li chose a traditional preparation where steaks or fillets are gently steamed, along with a few coins of ginger to remove any "fishy" smell. The simple steamed fish is then topped with fresh ginger and scallions, and a bit of sugar, soy sauce and wine, which all come together into a beautifully cohesive dish when topped with a dramatic drizzle of hot oil. You can find the recipe here, and read more about Sally's New Year celebration at The Oregonian. Next up: perfect rice.