Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Steaming Kitchen


Had some friends for dinner on the weekend and promised them for Malay food, a new entry in my kitchen. A typical characteristic of Malay Cuisine, as they say, in culinary world, a dish with a distinct blanket of oil as a drape  and rich dark colour. And here I would be unfair not to mention the aromas and appetising taste with all fresh ingredients and spices pounded and married together.

I needed a balance with that amount of spice and richness to serve for the dinner and chose the Cantonese style steamed fish with light flavours but added lot of colours to marry with the theme and not make my Sea Bass feel out of place on the colourful table. I was a bit apprehensive too. as this was probably the first time I was going to experiment to this extent with my friends. Generally, I go safe with my Indian palette and its S and R who are frequent guinea pigs for my experimentation. Of course, my gang in Sydney would oppose, they had their share of being guinea pigs few times too. But I am happy to declare the menu was hit and thanks to my friends, they did really push me to play up with more cuisines in future.

I must say it was a good idea to go and fetch some fresh fish for this dish too. I was friendly with my uncle at the market and he butterflied the whole Sea Bass very carefully. This is a good idea if you want to make your fish the show stopper rather than just have the whole fish. And its so convenient to slice and plate to individual plates, and not to forget that the juices penetrate to all the muscles of the fish uniformly.

To place the butterflied fish on the steaming dish, just press a bit on the spine and spread the wings ( sides of the fish- I call it wings here as it is acting like a butterfly. If you are not lucky enough to the get the fish pre-cut as a butterfly , then the process would be clean the gut of the fish. Then cut along the spine, from head to tail, and loosen the fillet on each side of the fish. To a go step ahead use your knife and a bit of skill ( not actually , a lot of skill) and slit near the bone on both sides to take off the bones. This is a complex cut. I do not want to scare may go along with this recipe even without the butterfly cut, if that's going to a big issue. Just take a whole fish and clean the gut and descale etc and start over with the process. Butterflying is just a better edge over the dish.

OK now time for noting the ingredients I used-

 For the fish
1/  Whole sea Bass
2/ 1 inch Ginger - thin sliced
3/ 1 inch Ginger - Juliennes
4/ 3 Garlic cloves - thin sliced
5/  2 stalk Spring Onion- Juliennes
6/  2-3 Red chili Julienne
7/ A stalk of Lemongrass, crushed
8/  A quarter of capsicum-  very small diagonal cuts
9/ Coriander leaves chopped
10/  4 Tbsp Cooking Oil

Sea Bass waiting to be steamed with all the colourful flavouring mates

1/ 6 tbsp water
2/ 2 tbsp Light soy sauce
3/ 3 tsp Sesame oil
4/ 2 tsp Oyster Sauce
5/ 2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
6/ Chinese Wine -1 tsp
7/ Crushed Coriander root- nice wash and clean the root and crush it rough with the back of the knife
8 / 1/2 tsp Ground white pepper

Ginger Oil-
Deep Fry some ginger julienne in oil. This should be done just before serving the hot steamed fish. Pour the hot sizzling ginger oil on the fish and sprinkle the crispy ginger. I promise you this will enhance the whole dish to another level.

What happened in my kitchen-

1. Place the butterflied fish on a steaming dish. Hide some ginger and garlic slices underneath the fish and some of the greens and reds on top of the fish. Season the fish with salt. Not too much as my sauce will be salty from Soy sauce. Feed the fish with the lemongrass stalk and push it till the stomach. My photo will help you to know what I mean. Steam the fish for 15 minutes. My fish was too big for my steamer, so what I did was, wrapped the fish with foil leaving lot a space within. So not a tight wrap but  let it balloon up. I cooked my fish in a hot oven for 15 minutes. But ideally the taste and texture is much better if you can steam.

2. While the fish is steaming prepare the sauce. Add all the ingredients of the sauce in a saucepan, cook until boil. On the other hand prepare the ginger oil.

3. Key point is everything should be done simultaneously as you would need all in the same temperature zone.

4. Take the fish out and take out all the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and spring onion as they  have given up their flavours to the fish already. Pour some of the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle some greens and reds on the fish and pour the rest of the sauce. Bathe the whole fish generously with the sauce. Finish up with the ginger oil.

5. Serve hot and enjoy with rice.