In lieu of an Asian bamboo steamer, I used my large Caphalon pot that is oven-safe.
For those who’d like to know: this recipe is both gluten-free and soy-free.
Today in New York City (and presumably elsewhere), Chinatown is throwing its annual Lunar New Year’s parade. I was going to go with my camera club for the photo and food op, but decided to save money for some larger-scale purchases. Besides, it’s finally warm enough out there to dig my frozen trash can out of the snow bank, so that the garbage truck can get the “goodies” out of it this coming week! And, seriously, if I’d gone down to NYC, especially Chinatown, I’d have dropped a few buckets of moolah, of which I’d really prefer not to drop right now.
So, Friday night I went to the local Asian market, picked up two fresh fish (one is a striped bass, and I haven’t a clue as to what the other one was). I also got a couple varieties of mushrooms, for a LOT cheaper than you’ll find them in regular supermarkets (not to begin to mention Whole Wallet), assuming you can even find them elsewhere. One thing I no longer buy at the Asian market is the frozen seafood farmed under who-knows-what conditions in China or Thailand. The fresh stuff though — it’s really FRESH!
I was reading up on traditional Lunar New Year foods — they’re actually regionally-dependent, of course. One thing though is that serving the whole fish is considered lucky. Don’t get freaked out by the head! Seriously, we all have one…
The ponzu marinate sauce: this is NOT the same as the old standby, Kikkoman’s Ponzu Sauce. For one, there’s no soy at all in this — it’s a nice basic marinate I picked up at Whole Wallet a few months ago. It’s very citrus-based. I assume you can also find it online. Marukan brand, “Ponzu premium sudachi citrus marinate”. It’s a pale yellow in color. Ingredients: water, concentrated lemon juice, vinegar, citrus (sudachi) juice, citric acid, salt, “natural” flavor.” Okay, I’ll deal with the “natural” flavor.
The fish sauce: I’ve run into a couple I like — some of those in Asian markets are really not geared to western tastes — last summer when I was in there, the cashier looked at my Caucasian features and ran back and got me a (presumably) much less fishy fish sauce than the one I’d picked out. “You not like!” Oh well. (I probably should have bought both, to find out if I not like or not. But I was making a Pad Thai for a potluck, so I went with her choice…) At any rate, for this recipe I used Thai Kitchen’s premium fish sauce, which came from my regular supermarket.
Prep Time: 5 minutes or so, this does not count hunting around in the fridge for the beach mushrooms.
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes.
Rest Time: Just enough to get in some photos.
Serves 4 with a salad, or a white yam noodle side.
Makes great leftovers.
Not for the fish-bone squeamish.
Asian Steamed Fish with Cabbage and Mushrooms
* Cabbage, about 5 ounces more or less, sliced coarsely.
* 2 whole fish, scaled and de-gutted, otherwise whole. I’d use a white flaky fish or so. This was striped bass and Mystery Fish. (Readers are invited to tell me what it was.)
* 1.5 cups water, approximately.
* 1/4 cup fish sauce.
* 1/4 cup ponzu manrinate. (See note above!)
* 3-4 ounces of mushrooms. Use what you like or have. (I was planning on using white button mushrooms until I ran into the enoki and the brown beach mushrooms that I used instead.)
* a couple ounces of mung bean sprouts.
* 1/2 teaspoon powdered galangal root — if you think to buy the fresh stuff, even better! Simply peel and grate up about half a teaspoon and use instead.
* Ground pepper to taste.
Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
Layer down the cabbage in the bottom of your pot.
Add the fish on top. The goal is to keep the fish mostly raised above the water on top of the cabbage. Yep, I had to break my “luck” by cutting the one fish in half in order for it to fit. But hey, I had my striped bass to fall back on!
Add enough water to just reach the fish. For me, this was 1.5 cups.
Add the fish sauce and the ponzu marinate — ADJUST RATIOS if your water amount differs from mine. If you like your food a little less vinegary, add a little less ponzu marinate. (I’m a sourpuss. My absolute favorite soup on the planet is a good Chinese hot and sour soup!)
Add the galangal and the ground pepper.
Layer around the mushrooms, bean sprouts, and any other appropriate veggie you might have to hand — bok choy comes to mind, and I wish I’d bought some! If you use button mushrooms, halve or quarter them first, depending on size. With enoki and beach, cut off the rhizomes at the bottom (that’s their “roots”, in general parlance). I try not to drown the veggies and mushrooms when setting them down.
Put the pot in that HOT oven. Covered!
The meal is ready in 15-20 minutes (less if you use much smaller fish).
I could definitely have used more cabbage! And, Happy Lunar New Year, whether you celebrate or not.