This was our Chinese new year main course. Although I had planned to share it with my family, because of other obligations I ended up eating alone, but I still enjoyed myself. However I have decided that there is no way to photograph a whole cooked fish. Especially when the fish eyes are intact. Well, maybe there is, but not for me. There's just something wrong about having a face gazing back at me. I haven't prepared any meat for quite a while, and I found myself unusually sterile in my preparations and mentality.
This recipe is one of my father's illustrious descriptions, which means when I ask him for it, he gives no real measurements, just a list of ingredients and his description of the method of cooking is scattered and disconnected. But somehow the end product is always delicious. In all honesty, I love my father's recipes and the way he describes them. And even though I was feeling less than relaxed with raw meat in my kitchen, I was still comfortable making my own alterations, what few there were.
steamed lunar new year fish
1 whole tilapia fish, cleaned and prepped
ginger, sliced into shreds
a few dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted and sliced thin
a few star anise
a short stem of lemongrass
applewood smoked salt
2 green onions, thinly sliced
a Tablespoon or two peanut oil
a few drops sesame oil
a few drops chili oil
lemon or lime wedges
red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper
Prepare your steamer, bringing it to a high constant steam.
Prepare your fish by laying it on top of a few slices of ginger and mushrooms on a dinner or pie plate, then laying slices of ginger and mushrooms on top of it. Place the anise and lemongrass around the fish, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
Carefully put your fish into the steamer without letting the steamer stay uncovered for long. Cook on a high steam for about 15 minutes. Do not uncover the fish during this cooking time. When the fish meat flakes when you pick at it with a fork, or when you poke it with a toothpick, it is ready.
A minute or so before the fish is done, heat the peanut oil to its smoking point. Remove from heat, then add the sesame and chili oil. Remove the fish from the steamer, take the ginger and mushrooms off the top of the fish, sprinkle the thinly sliced green onions on top of the fish, then spoon the hot oil on top. You can also sprinkle a bit of smoked salt on the fish again at this point and the red pepper.
Serve with steamed brown rice and chinese greens like gai lan or choy sum.
happy new year!