Sunday, July 10, 2011

Take 2: 豆豉蒸魚 Black Bean Steamed Fish

Back for round two with a whole fish, this time! This is the first fish I've done all* the cleaning for. Except for that time I was working with whole sardines, but gutting sardines is very different from gutting larger fish. *Alright, almost all. Harris Teeter did a very poor job of gutting the fish, which it claimed to be "whole dressed fish". Now, I'm no expert, so I looked up what it meant for a fish to be "dressed", and according to How Stuff Works, "Dressed fish are gutted and scaled with the head, tails, and fins intact."Well, they left the scales, didn't remove the gills, and cut around instead of between the pelvic fins. At least they removed the guts, I suppose. Anyway, it was fine since I wanted to do the dressing myself.

The scaling and gutting all went fine (well, scaling I've done before). I looked at several video and written instructions beforehand. I don't know that I'll be working with whole fish too much, though. Having the skin intact is fantastic because first, the skin helps keep the meat moist, but also the skin is just delicious. However, as everyone on the web seems to warn, when you're removing the scales, by scraping with a knife or spoon, they fly all over the place. Unless you have a backyard to do it in, you're going to get scales all over your kitchen. Also, filets are just enormous time savers versus dressing fish. 

Furthermore, much as I love fish, I'm starting to get wary as overfishing is becoming more and more pressing an issue. This fish was a red snapper, which is apparently classified as "vulnerable", the first of the "threatened" classifications. Trying to track all the different species is difficult, too, as even for closely related fish, one may be fine while the other is endangered. All this while we are told to eat more fish because it's supposed to be healthier than eating other meats. Unfortunately, fish domestication has not been very successful, and furthermore, farmed fish seem to lose a lot of the nutritional advantages of wild fish (I imagine due to the diet). I suppose until there are technological/nutritional breakthroughs, people will somehow have to be made to rely more on other sources of protein.

Anyway, back to the steamed fish. So as opposed to the last times, whole fish, green onion, and more of it on top, less ginger on top, saving the ginger and green onion on top for the after-steaming hot oil pour. It went well! Flavor was good, slightly overcooked the fish since this was a smaller one than my reference recipe, and I was guessing a bit. I'm not sure what I would do with a larger fish, though. This one barely fit my dish which is just right for my wok-steamer setup. There's probably a way to use the oven, though that seems very inefficient, energywise. Might try a bit of salt and pepper rub beforehand for next time

 before steaming; this fish doesn't quite fit in the dish

 after steaming

ginger and green onion piled on top, ready for the oil pour

豆豉蒸魚 Black Bean Steamed Fish

2 thick firm white fish fillets or 1.5 lbs red snapper
2 TBS salted black beans, chopped
3 green onions, shredded into 1.5-inch long pieces
1-inch piece ginger, cut into very thin matchstick pieces
1 tsp brown sugar
2 TBS rice wine
1 TBS soy sauce

2 TBS vegetable oil
1 TBS sesame oil

cilantro for garnish

[if using whole fish, make 3 deep diagonal slashes on each side of the fish. This allows the fish to cook more evenly through.]

  1. Put half the black beans and ginger and one-third of the green onions, in a steamer-safe dish, and put the fish on top.
  2. Mix rice wine and soy sauce in small bowl.
  3. Sprinkle fish with sugar, pour rice wine, soy sauce mixture over the fish.
  4. Cover fish with remaining salted black beans.
  5. Cover and steam over briskly boiling water for 10 minutes for thick fillets, 20 minutes for  (1.5 lbs) whole fish, less than 10 minutes for thinner fillets.
  6. Fish is finished when meat flakes easily (and translucence is gone throughout)
  7. Remove dish from steamer and either pour the soup into another dish for serving or remove fish to another dish temporarily for the oil pour (next steps).
  8. Arrange remaining ginger on top of fish, and then arrange remaining green onion on top of ginger.
  9. Heat vegetable and sesame oil until they just begin to smoke and pour over the fish. The ginger/green onion should sizzle.
  10. Transfer fish to the dish with the soup and serve. Spoon sauce over the fish and your rice when eating!


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