Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From the Kitchen of Mama Wong - Part 5

Steamed Sea Bass with Mushrooms and Pork

I'm a big fan of fish, but sea bass isn't one of my favs. It isn't one of the tastiest fish, but eat it the with mushrooms, pork and salted vegs and you'll end up loving it.

Ingredients -
Sea Bass (1 whole)
Pork Belly (三辰肉; 1 strip about 5-6cm long)
Salted Vegetables (1-2 leaves)
Dried Mushrooms (5-6; I like to those from Japan coz they've the best fragrance)
Ginger (3-4 slices)
Coriander (1 batch)
Spring Onions (1 batch)
Light Soy Sauce
Corn Flour
Oyster Sauce
Pre-Cooked Oil

All set? Let's get cooking.

Always Be Preparing
I hope you've never had to try to eat dried mushrooms without soaking them properly first. My first experience with them was pretty bad - I wanted to add them to instant noodles and decided that they will pretty tun soft after I throw them in hot water for about 5 minutes.

I've since discovered that you need at least 2 hours of soaking before the mushrooms can be used, so do that; no need for warm water. When the mushrooms are all soft, take off their stems and slice them up.

Next up in the ginger. Scratch off the skin and then slice them up FINELY. My mum does a really good job of it (she doesn't hide that fact too); the ginger's gotta be really fine for it to work... like hair.

After the ginger comes the pork (seriously it doesn't matter which comes first really... you gotta do em all in the end). Wash and clean the excess fats off the belly strip and then slice them FINELY. They should look like little slimy maggots in your bowl after you set em aside. Makes for better 口感.

The salted vegetables should also be cut finely, but you need em to crunch down well so ease up on the fine-as-hair requirement on the ginger.

Spring onions are like the ginger. Keep the stalks (the thick lower half near the roots) for the fish.

Coriander's sparingly cut into 2cm segments, ready to be sprinkled onto the finished product along with the spring onions.

Last but not least (I must say this is my least favorite part of the dish), the fish. Descale it (the monger usually does a kindergarten kid's job of it) and clean out its guts.

Side Story: Selecting a good sea bass
When you're going to the market to choose fish, always look out for certain traits. Just remember that they all used to be alive, so by keeping out for signs of decay, you'll be pretty safe.

The Chinese call sea bass 金目鱸, literally translated into Golden-Eyed Fish. So you're gonna want to choose one with bright silver eyes. Its flesh should also have a certain bounce to it.

Once all that's done, take a break by firing up the wok in preparation for steaming.

Let Em Soak
The next step would be to marinate the meat and the mushrooms. Let's do the mushrooms first.

Take the mushroom slices and throw in corn flour (about a teaspoon), oyster sauce (2 teaspoons but you might like it saltier), ginger slices, pepper (a dash), and the pre-cooked oil (about a table spoon). Mix and set aside.

For the pork, you'll need light soy sauce (about 1 cap full), corn flour (1 teaspoon) and pepper (a bigger dash than the mushrooms; let's call it TWO dashes). Mix and set aside.

Into The Fire
Lay the spring onion stalks on a ceramic plate and place the fish on top. Sprinkle pre-cooked oil over the bass and then decorate the plate with the mushrooms, pork and salted vegetables. If you like your fish salty, you might wanna stuff a few salted vegs into the belly.

Put the fish to steam for about 10 minutes under high heat and when it's done, sprinkle on the spring onions and coriander before serving.

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