Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A New Look for the New Year!

I decided to go with a brand new look for my blog...something fresh and clean...with a banner that represents me and my style of cooking which is generally health based...and now thanks to my amazing friend Steve I have one! Let me know what you think!

And speaking of healthy cooking...I decided to start the blog this year with a piece I did on fish as I've found it can be be a tricky ingredient to work with and many choose not to...I hope this will change that as I absolutely love cooking with fish!

Fish is an ingredient that can be difficult to prepare and even more difficult to select if you’re not used to doing so, but getting it just right can be so rewarding. It is so versatile that it can be cooked in many different ways; fried, baked, grilled, poached, raw sashimi style and a Chinese favourite, steamed. This is why I sat down with Lai Chong Seng the Chinese Banquet Chef at the Hotel Maya to find out a thing or two on getting a typical Cantonese style steamed fish just right.

To start off you need a nice fresh piece of fish. The freshness of the fish plays a huge role in the turnout of the overall dish. Fresh fish shouldn't have a strong fishy smell or taste. Chef Lai points out that the first thing you need to look out for is the colour of the fish. If you’re looking at a whole fish then the tell tale sign is all in the eyes. Eyes that are bright and clear indicate freshness, but if the eyes are cloudy or sunken in, stay clear. With fillets, you need to look at the colour of the meat. If it is translucent and shiny then it’s fresh and if it’s dull or creamy then it’s not. Another way to detect freshness is in the feel of the flesh; a firm bounce to the touch is what is ideal.

Once you have selected your piece of fish all you need to do is steam the fish with a little bit of ginger. The ginger gets rid of any fishy aroma and makes it fragrant. Ideally fish should be steamed for 8 – 10 minutes but a simple way to check if your fish is done is by poking it with a skewer or a chopstick. If it is soft and the stick goes in easily then the fish is done to perfection. It if is undercooked pressure would be needed to poke the skewer through and if it’s overdone then the fish would be dry and rubbery.

Chef Lai then shared with me his signature recipe for steamed fish. “I love fish and I love the flavour of mustard leaves and so one day I thought that it might taste good together…so I tried it and it worked!” he exclaims. One piece of advice he gives with this recipe is to simmer the dried mustard vegetable on a very low heat for a long time rather than on a high heat as this will dry it up too fast and the flavour will not be as intense. If Garoupa is not available, Chef Lai also suggests substituting it with other firm fleshed fish such as Cod or White Pomfret.

Steamed Star Garoupa Fillet with Dried Mustard
200gm Star Garoupa Fillet
50gm Sweet Dry Mustard Vegetable
5gm Sliced Black Mushrooms
2gm Shredded Ginger
1tsp Oyster Sauce
1/2tsp Sugar
1/2tsp Dark Soy Sauce

Cut dried mustard to small pieces; poach it on a very low flame until it softens. Leave it to drain. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a wok and add in the dried mustard vegetable, mushroom and ginger. Stir fry until fragrant then add in some water, oyster sauce, sugar and dark soy sauce and cook for 15 minutes.

Steam the Star Garoupa fillet for 8-10minutes. Once done pour the mustard vegetable on the fillet, garnish and enjoy!


Lorraine E said...

Great tips Alexandra! I'm always a bit scared f cooking fish due to a lack of experience so any help is always great :)

Dharm said...

No fair! You get to get tips from Chefs!! LOL. Yes, Fish used to scare me too before...

Alexandra said...

Lorraine - I've always had trouble selecting fish as it's hard to tell what is fresh so it was great talking to the chef about it :)

Dharm - You could talk to the chefs too! hehehe...I love talking to chefs from all sorts of backgrounds...you learn so much from them!