It’s been ages since I last steamed a fish (years in fact). Today, I am steaming a whole Tilapia using a very popular Chinese method. It is quite simple but (and trust me on this one), you really want to try this recipe yourselves… Read more
Until recently, my only experience with Tilapia was as small, otherwise unidentifiable, fillets or chinks served to me in restaurants; I had never seen, much less cooked, the whole article and, when I saw some in my local store freezer I couldn’t resist.
I actually purchased the one you see above about a year ago. I originally planned to steam it, as I recall but, as sometimes happens, it was put into the freezer and then forgotten. Luckily, when it came to light during a periodic culinary ‘spring cleaning’, it seemed to have survived quite well without any signs of ‘freezer-burn’ or other decrepitude. Still, it needed to be used fairly soon and, as I was alone for the week, and had lovely weather, I decided to see how it might do on the barbecue grill… Read more
I have quite a number of Chinese cookery books printed in China that contain recipes for a small plate preparation consisting of peanuts fried with a type of tiny white fish. I actually have all the necessary ingredients to prepare this for you sometime but, just recently, I was fortunate to come across a commercially packaged snack that I just had to try… Read more
When I grill or fry Salmon or Arctic Char, I usually leave the skin on and cook it so it gets nice and crispy. A few times, I have even cooked the skin separately from the rest of the fish as it makes a lovely snack but, until I found this package at Kowloon Market in Ottawa I had no idea that a commercially packaged variety was available … Read more
Rollmops, for the uninitiated, are a delicacy composed of herring fillets that are rolled, usually around a gherkin or other filling, and pickled in slightly sweetened vinegar along with onions and various whole spices such as black pepper and mustard seed. They are very rich (just a few pieces are usually sufficient for a little snack) and my wife and I both love them… Read more
Katsuobushi is a preparation of fish, specifically Skipjack Tuna, but also Bonito, that is dried, smoked and then fermented using a mold similar to that used for making soy products like soy sauce and miso. As it is a primary ingredient in the ubiquitous Japanese stock known as Dashi, it is thus one of the cornerstones of Japanese cuisine… Read more
Aside from the odd can for making tuna salad sandwiches, I have only ever eaten tuna raw. With this particular dish, recently sampled at the Empire Grill in Ottawa, I only just managed, barely, to break with that tradition…
In my post featuring Beef Tataki, which explains in a bit more detail the specific Japanese grilling technique in question, I mentioned that the process is sometimes applied to fish, and, as you can see, the tuna in this particular case is very nearly raw all except for a tiny margin around the edges. It is this brief grilling that allows the tuna to develop a range of flavors beyond that of the purely raw article and the Empire Grill managed, I must say to do a very nice job.
The slices of tuna, crusted with white and dark sesame seeds were served over a bed of seaweed dressed with soy and ginger. This salad, which certainly added to the visual appeal of the presentation, was very pleasant in both texture and taste, although I rather suspect that a pre-packaged seaweed was used rather than prepared from scratch. The dark sauce you can see was not mentioned in the menu description but it had a very good umami taste that makes me think that soybean paste may have been present. In any event, it worked really well with both the fish and the seaweed.
My only real criticism about this dish was that the tuna slices were ever so slightly dry. The waiter confirmed for me that the sesame seeds are pressed into the meat after grilling and I rather think that the restaurant probably prepares a large section of fish then keeps it pressed by wrapping tightly before slicing individual portions as ordered. This would make sense for restaurants to do but it does, if I am right in my guess, result in a slight diminution of the nice, soft texture of a freshly prepared piece. Still, this was really only a minor flaw and I really enjoyed the dish as a whole. I look forward very much to trying at home sometime as soon as fresh tuna appears in our local store…
I always rather think of Fish Sauce as being the south-east Asian equivalent of soy sauce as it is employed in much the same way, being ubiquitous in use as a cooking ingredient, a base for other sauces, and as a stand-alone condiment in its own right. Anybody who has ever eaten in a Vietnamese or Thai restaurant has likely consumed the sauce, even if not conscious of the fact, but, as yet, it does not appear as a regular item in many western pantries… Read more
Unagi, or freshwater eel, is a Japanese delicacy I have enjoyed many times and I thought I would share my most recent experience of it with you here. Japanese cuisine also makes use of sea eel (or ‘anago’) but you tend to find unagi appearing much more frequently on the menu at Japanese restaurants.
Like octopus and a few other fish products, unagi is always cooked, even in sashimi or sushi preparations. The cooking generally involves grilling but the eel is also sometimes steamed first. Often (indeed, every time I have ever had it) a sweetish glaze is added before grilling, but there is also a ‘shirayaki’ or ‘white-grilled’ version that does without. The glaze, when used, is often a Teriyaki sauce type preparation but here, on this particular occasion, I rather think that actual Eel Sauce formed the glaze. This is more than simply a sauce prepared for eel; it actually contains an extract from eel in the same way oyster sauce contains oyster extract and it has the same sort of sweet, umami flavor.
Although the sashimi and sushi pieces I ordered came plated very prettily with shiso leaf, shredded daikon, pickled ginger and wasabi, I didn’t think the eel was nearly as good as usual. It may have been due to overcooking but, in any event, I found the flesh really quite pallid and lacking in texture. Without the sauce, there probably wouldn’t have been a great deal of flavor and, on this occasion, the ginger and some soy were welcome additions. Normally though, I really enjoy this dish and, if you enjoy grilled fish you really should give it a try…
Typically, Japanese Sushi and Sashimi preparations involve raw fish (where fish is used) but this is not always the case. Indeed, some varieties, most notably mackerel, are lightly first lightly pickled using salt and sweetened vinegar. In some ways, Saba Sashimi, or Sabazushi (as preparations with Sushi rice are known) is a bit like a Japanese counterpart to the Latin American dish called Ceviche that I sampled and then wrote about a few days ago. Generally however, Saba undergoes a very brief pickling (often less than an hour), while Ceviche is typically (although not always) marinated for several hours.
I have eaten and enjoyed Japanese style pickled mackerel many times, but the day after sampling the aforementioned Ceviche, I hastened to the Wasabi restaurant in Ottawa’s Byward Market to taste it again for the purposes of comparing and contrasting the two. At Wasabi, Saba is offered as both a sashimi and a sushi item and, not being able to decide between the two, I opted for both.
As you can see, the two delicacies were plated with wasabi (which I am not keen on), shredded daikon, and pickled ginger. Soy sauce was also provided on the side. There were three pieces of fish and, though the single piece of sushi was not terribly well formed, the color of the skin was absolutely gorgeous. I dipped the very edge of the sushi rice in just a little soy (foregoing the ginger entirely) but I sampled the sashimi slices without any accompaniments at all as I always think this is overkill.
As for the taste, the fish was clearly very fresh and nicely textured and the pickling was lightly done and added just the right fillip of flavor. I enjoyed the Ceviche I sampled the day before but, though I will try it again, I don’t think it matches the lovely, sophisticated simplicity of the Japanese preparation. I think I could quite happily eat this every day…
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