Saturday, October 2, 2010

Something Fishy

Chinese-Style Steamed Fish

I can often be heard heralding the praises of my mother's cooking.  It's hard not to.  I've had the extreme fortune of being fed restaurant-worthy dishes filled with what is known to be the main ingredient of all great food:  love.  My mom is a self-taught cook, her skills being fueled and honed by a keen sense of taste, observation and of course, passion. There are no recipes, only instinct. There have been many occasions when I've said to myself that I must start recording her recipes.  Between ambitious ideas of videotaping her in action (cooking show-style) and creating a cookbook, making it happen just hasn't happened.  But I have come to realize that some kind of recording is happening in the form of osmosis.  For all the years of helping out and being around the incredible aromas of her kitchen, her recipes have become a part of me.

I first came to this realization a number of years back while living in a small town in Quebec. It was a desperate situation - no authentic Asian food!  Instead of settling for sad substitutions, I opted to try making a dish that was simple enough to replicate, but could still conjure up feelings of home:  Chinese-Style Steamed Fish.  With a sense of disbelief, my attempt tasted a lot like mum's.  Now, having recreated a number of my mother's recipes, I can certainly give credit to osmosis, but perhaps I've had the genuine luck of inheriting some of her instinct, too.

My version of my mom's Chinese-Style Steamed Fish:
(For this recipe, you may have to tap into your own instincts, as I eyeball all measurements.  Just like mom!)

You will need:  Halibut (wild-caught Pacific Halibut is the most sustainable choice), oil, ginger, garlic (optional), green onions, cilantro and soy sauce.    

Finely slice the ginger/garlic and put into a small saucepan.  Pour just enough oil to cover, and gently fry over medium-low heat until golden brown.

Put the fish in a ceramic or stainless steel dish and place whole strips of green onion on top. (You can also julienne the green onions and place on top of the fish after it's steamed, and before you pour on the oil.)

Steam the fish until opaque and flaky in the middle. (Use a fork to twist the centre of the fish.  If it separates along the grain, it's done. The general rule is to cook for 10 minutes per inch of fish.)

Pour out all the liquid from the steamed fish. Generously spread fresh cilantro on top. Drizzle the hot ginger/garlic oil over the fish, and then immediately dash on the soy sauce, according to taste.   You should hear it sizzle.

Best eaten with steamed rice, and if possible, with your mom at your side :o)


Lena said...

you're making me hungry! reading this reminded me of my mum too!
PS love your storytelling!

Jen Low said...

Thanks so much Lena! And right back at you!