Precious, precious salmon head

Look at this beast! For $2! And possibly free in future! I think I’m switching fishmonger.

Can't believe people throw this away

For reference, that head is the size of my hand with all fingers outstretched. And it includes the bottom half of the salmon collar.

Mr Fishmonger says he will give me these for free if I am a regular (free!! free!! My Singaporean within rejoices, and I’m not even Singaporean). However, I can’t decide whether he is just bribing me to buy his other stuff with the offer of free fish head. But free fish head is free fish head. One doesn’t sniff at free fish head.

I feel a bit like a cat that someone has bribed to be friends with them using leftover dinner.

I wonder if he has other types of fish head too.

My mother thought I was depriving myself when I excitedly shared news of my purchase with her. She was all: “are you eating properly? Don’t starve yourself to save money!” She didn’t quite grasp that I specifically wanted the fish head, and asked 3 different fishmongers for it, simply because salmon head is awesome.

If you haven’t tried it, lock your squeamishness in a box and give it a go. It’s a really fatty part of the fish with lots of smooth flesh (much more moist than salmon steak), and crispy skin all over when done well.

We dumped the bones / fins in a slow cooker with some water, onions, salt, and pepper. There was so much fatty salmon goodness that the resulting stock tasted almost creamy.  Hello udon noodle soup. Another post, maybe.

The salmon head became this roasted amazingness you see below. Prompting a discussion of the merits of a simple dinner of a (whole) salmon head each, and rice. Looks like I need to get 2 salmon heads next time.

Salmon head in teriyaki sauce

Roasted Teriyaki Salmon Head 

Teriyaki sauce based on the one used by Just Bento, but with substitutions the sake.

Salmon head + collar
Salt

2 tablesp soya sauce
3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp rice vinegar
1 tablesp sugar

  1. Wash the salmon head and collar, and rub with a little salt. Set aside for half an hour.
  2. Wipe the salmon with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Mix the sauces and sugar in a small bowl, and pour over salmon. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Roast in an oven for around 15 minutes or so at 220 degrees C, until the skin is a little charred on the edges and the fish is cooked through. If your salmon head is large, you may need to flip it over and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
Advertisements

Descent into auntie-food (like lotus stir-fry)

Lotus root as a bit of a bad rep sometimes as being very traditional, and boring, and possibly not-food (I know some people who refuse to eat the lotus in soups as it is considered not-food and therefore not-edible).

Yes, I did get funny looks when I very excitedly found an ugly  potato-root-looking thing in the market. Yes, it was an effort to persuade Bigfoot that I did in fact want to buy this rather expensive thing that looked a bit like a petrified hotdog bun. But it was worth it in the end.

I didn’t think it was ugly at all. Or even auntie-ish. In the end, you can’t beat simple, tasty, and most importantly quick food  after a long day.

I swear it tastes good

Lotus Stir-Fry

Adapted from Just Bento’s version.

1 lotus root, peeled and sliced
2-3 cm ginger, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic (depending on size), chopped
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped into approx 1cm lengths

chilli flakes or whole red chilli, to taste – I used around 1/2 teasp red chilli flakes
1 teasp brown suger
1 teasp rice / balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablesp sesame seeds
1.5 tablesp soya sauce
2 teasp sesame oil
white pepper to taste

  1. Slice lotus root and leave it in some slightly vinegared water while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Fry ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant, over medium heat. Drain the lotus slices and add to the pain in a single layer, flipping as needed.
  3. Add chilli, spring onions, sesame seeds, pepper, soya sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook until slightly caramelised.

On the Clash of Cuisines

Bigfoot and I have this problem, in that he says all Chinese food is bland and I strongly, vehemently, and occasionally violently disagree with him. And I continue to politely suggest that his taste buds have been corrupted by a lifetime of curry powder and exposure to poor quality pork-free cantonese  food.

There is a whole world (of Chinese food) out there. And I will win this personal crusade. Bit by bit, fighting tooth and nail each step of the way.

After this meal, the score stood at 5,001:0 (me being the victor. Of course, I’m also the only one keeping score, but whatever).

Preconceptions vanquished

Szechuan Eggplant with Spicy Tauchu 

Adapted from Smokywok.

2 medium sized eggplants – cut into sticks
1 cm knob salted fish – chopped
5 (small) cloves garlic – chopped
Thumb sized knob of ginger – sliced
3 stalks spring onions – chopped into 1-2 inch lengths
2 red chilli – chopped
1 teasp szechuan peppers

2 tablesp spicy tauchu (bean paste)
2 tablesp soya sauce
1.5 tablesp sugar
2 tablesp chinese black vinegar
1/4 cup water

  1. Pre-cook the eggplant – either fry it for a couple of minutes in a wok, or toast it in the toaster oven for 5 minutes. I toasted mine.
  2. In a claypot (or a pot with a lid), fry with a little oil: salted fish, garlic, ginger, spring onions, chilli, and szechuan peppers.
  3. Throw in all the sauces and the pre-cooked eggplant. Stir it up and wait for the sauce to boil.
  4. Once the sauce boils, lower the heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the eggplant is cooked and the sauce is absorbed.

More Easy Vegetables: Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Easy vegetable recipes are pretty much my staple, with a throw-everything-in-and-fry omelette and rice.

Here is yet another one. Sometimes, dinner is for watching Masterchef Professional after a long day on Excel, rather than actually cooking.

Be lazy, lik ea bean

Sesame-Sugar Long Beans

Learnt it from my uncle, this works with any green / leafy veg

3-4 servings of green beans, chopped
2 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp soya sauce
1 teasp sugar, brown / white
A dash of white pepper

2 thin slices of ginger – for blanching. They don’t even need to be skinned, just clean 🙂

  1. Boil some water in a pan, and drop in the two slices of ginger. Cover with a lid, and bring everything to a rolling boil. 
  2. Blanch the  beans for 30 seconds or so, taste one to check done-ness. If it’s how you like it (I like mine under-done), drain off the water and transfer to a bowl. If not, keep checking until it is cooked enough.
  3. While hot, pour all other ingredients into the bowl, and stir well. Taste. Adapt as you like.

Baked Real Whole Fish

Oh woe is me, for the want of barbecued fish but lack of a barbecue.

Photo 25-02-2013 18 47 45 Photo 25-02-2013 18 57 26

Sympathy not forthcoming, I resolved to remedy this disaster.

I ended up making baked fish with a Thai inspired sauce (what is it with me and Asian adaptations at the moment?? Note to self, please don’t let your angmoh side start getting in control of things here. If you start adapting classics like claypot chicken rice, part of you will die inside.)

Photo 25-02-2013 19 23 54

Anyway, not that it makes any of this it more acceptable, but I did note that this style of cooking = moist soft fish while retaining a nice slight char on the sauce flavours at the end.

Photo 25-02-2013 19 56 30

Thai Style Baked Fish

Method from Thaifood.About.com, edited to suit the flavour I wanted. 

Medium red snapper

10 cloves garlic
2 sticks lemongrass – white part only
1 small red chilli
1 green chilli
4 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp oyster sauce
2 tablesp fish sauce
3 teasp brown sugar
Zest of 1/4 of a large lime
Juice of 1 a large lime
A large bunch of coriander

Tin foil
An oven-safe dish large enough to hold your fish – to prevent drips

  1. Clean and scale your fish, if this hasn’t already been done.
  2. In a good food processor, dump in all the sauce ingredients except for the lime juice and the coriander.
    1. Add 80% of the coriander, reserving the rest for garnish
    2. Add half the lime juice
  3. Blend everything. Taste, and adjust lime juice and sugar as necessary.
  4. When you’re happy, roll out enough tin foil to encase the fish and drop the fish in the middle of it. Pack a couple of tablespoons of paste into the fish cavity. Slash the sides of the fish vertically a couple of times, and pack some paste into there too. Make sure paste coats both sides of the entire fish. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of sauce / paste for later.
  5. Loosely wrap the fish in the tin foil, and place in the oven safe dish. This prevents drippage and makes your life easier later on.
  6. Bake at 190 degrees C for around 20 minutes, adjust if your fish is bigger. Mine was a medium sized fish.
  7. Check if the fish is done (i.e., flesh inside the cuts on the side of the body is no longer translucent). If so, open the top of the tinfoil, pour in the rest of the sauce. Turn the oven to max / grill setting, and grill the exposed fish for around 5 minutes, or until the top reaches your desired level of charred-ness.

Cure-All for All that Ails

Cure-all of the ancients. Need I say more?


Yum yum sniff croak

 

Fine, I will. This is what I have when I’ve caught a sore throat, flu, or anything else unpleasant (that still allows me to eat). It makes all stomachs happy and even third parties will attest to its healing properties.

It is also very comforting in winter when the world is cold and cruel outside. (Psychological medicine?)

Basic Chinese Porridge (Congee / “Chook”)

I always struggle to remember my basic Chinese porridge recipe just when I need it – when I’m sick and my brain is fuddled. So, when making it as a healthy person, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write everything down (finally!).  

If you’re not sick, serve congee with a couple of sides: for example, sweet soya sauce fried fish, or a stir fried vege. Something with a strong taste can be nice (though not sambal / curry in my view). Today I served with a simple sesame-sugar long bean side.

4 cloves garlic
1.5 cm ginger
1 egg
2 dessert spoons soya sauce
1.5 rice cups of rice
7.5  rice cups water
1 any type of stock cube – or fresh if you have it 🙂

A handful of peanuts – optional, I don’t usually add this, just tried it out today
Any extras – cubed meat / fish, prawns (peeled), or veg

Sesame oil
A dash of white pepper

Yield: about 4 – 6 servings, depending on how much you eat each time.

  1. Mince ginger and garlic, then fry in a pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the rice (unrinsed), water, stock cube, and peanuts if using. Simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes until it thickens. If it remains too thin, simmer with the lid off for a while.
  3. Add soya sauce, stir in.
  4. Crack in the egg, stir in.
  5. Add any extras – fish / meat, vege if using. Cover and simmer until fully cooked. Don’t stir! Add a little extra water if it is getting too thick.
  6. Sprinkle on a little sesame oil and white pepper, garnish and serve. I garnished with fried garlic flakes.
    Garnish options, if you have them on hand: 

    • Spring onion, chopped
    • Fried garlic
    • Fried onions
    • Fried ginger
    • Fish / chicken flosses
    • Fresh coriander
      …the list is endless!

Note: freezes well. Add a little water when you reheat.

As my “extra”, I added a little fish and mussels in a soya sauce-sesame marinade:

Fish and Mussels Soya Sauce-Sesame Marinade (for Chinese Porridge)

Inspired by Smoky Wok.

A handful of mixed fish cubes and mussels
3 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
1 teasp balsamic vinegar – I didn’t have Chinese vinegar, which would have been better
1/2 teasp sugar
A pinch of flour

  1. Mix everything up and leave it to sit while the rice is cooking. Then add during Step 5 (see above). 

On Asian Adaptations and Silken Tofu

I like silken tofu but I never know what to eat it with except soya sauce, spring onion + friends. Sometimes you need a little more kick than a peaceful meal of steamed silken tofu with soya sauce can provide.

Pre-sauce Post-sauce

Enter Szechuan inspired tofu.

Now, I hate Asian food adaptations as much as the next purist, especially because they are generally bland-ed down versions of the real stuff, but when you have just moved house and possess only half the necessary storecupboad staples, well, there isn’t really much else you can do.

Rest assured that at least this adaptation is far from bland.

A mess of peanuts

(Anyone else hate the words “silken tofu”?? Sounds so unappetising. I didn’t even know it was called that until a year or so ago).

Lunchtime!

Szechuan Inspired Tofu

No real source here – I checked out a couple of page for various other things then threw some stuff together. 

1 block silken tofu
1/4 cup peanuts, unsalted

4 garlic, peeled
1.5cm ginger, peeled
2 red chilli (or one large long red chilli)
1 tablesp kicap manis
3 tablesp light soya sauce
1 teasp white vinegar
1 teasp brown sugar
1/3 cup water
A pinch of flour – flour or cornflour are both okay

  1. Steam tofu!
  2. Meanwhile, put the garlic, ginger, and chilli in a chopper. Blend to a rough paste.
  3. Pour all the sauces into the garlic / ginger / chilli mixture, and let them all sit until the tofu is almost finished cooking.
  4. Toast the peanuts… for no more than 5 minutes! I used a toaster oven and burnt mine.
  5. In a pot, fish out most of the garlic / ginger / chilli and fry in a little oil over medium heat.
  6. When the ginger and garlic turns a little golden and becomes fragrant, add the rest of the sauce and 1/3 cup of water.
  7. Set the heat to high. Let the mixture come to a boil and simmer down until the sauce is black and reduced a little. Then, add the pinch of flour and stir until the sauce thickens.
  8. Pour sauce and peanuts over steamed tofu and serve hot, with rice.

Sweet like a Restaurant

You know how vegetables are always so much sweeter in Chinese restaurants? Sweet and crisp.

Crispiness aside, the sweetness aspect is a trick. Apparently they use ginger to sweeten the vegetable. Don’t ask me how that works, but it does.

Supposedly it’s because the ginger soaks up the “toxins” and other baddies, so the vege loses its bitterness. And you aren’t allowed to eat the ginger afterwards. You should discard it. It’s very bad for you. Tsk tsk.

Well, this all sounds very (NOT) scientific to me. But it does work, so what can I say. If you know why this works I’d love to hear about it.

Not bitter or squishy at all

In the mean time I’m going to continue enjoying the easiest vege ever.

Sweet and Crispy Chinese Vegetables – choose your sauce!

Source: one of my aunties told me

A bunch of leafy vegetables
4 slices of ginger – no need to peel it, just wash it well
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash of sauce of your choice – fish, soya, oyster, anything really
A dash of white pepper, if you like

  1. Get some water in a pot. Drop in 2 slices of ginger and bring everything up to a boil.
  2. Blanch your vege, and then cool it in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Fry the remaining 2 slices of ginger in a little oil. Add the garlic and keep going until it gets fragrant, but not too brown.
  4. Add the vege and  sauce of your choice, and give it a couple of quick stirs. Remove from heat immediately. Add the pepper if you want to.

Sugar in Strange Places

My brother doesn’t have sugar in his house. Say it with me “????!??!”

Marinade is marinating

That’s because I had nothing to say, my mind was too boggled. He doesn’t cook, that much we’ve established, but even people who don’t cook generally have a sachet of sugar floating around somewhere that they’ve pinched from a restaurant or something. Anyway, good for him, he is being healthy and sugar-free.

Taste of childhood

This meant that I Had A Problem, because I wanted to use sugar in my sauce.

Use white colour, crush well!

Solution: find the food in the house with the highest sugar content, and crumble that into the sauce. This happened to be the the icing of some gem biscuits. I used the white ones. I felt that pink or yellow spots in my sauce might not go down too well at dinnertime.

Well, at least I can add ‘resourceful’ to my CV now.

See what I mean about the microwave?

Steamed Tofu with Spring Onion

Inspired by Two Spoons, method taken from Rasa Malaysia (ish)

1 block of tofu – smooth silken type
3 tablesp light soya sauce
2 tablesp sesame oil
3 stalks of spring onion, chopped – I just took the green part of about 8, I used the base for something else
1/2 teasp sugar – or the tops of 4 gem biscuits….your choice
A dash of pepper
A dash of 5 spice powder

  1. Make the sauce – mix together the following: 
    • Soya sauce
    • Sesame oil
    • Spring onion
    • Sugar
    • Pepper
    • 5 spice powder
  2. Microwave on high for 20 seconds. Set aside in the fridge and let it sit there until you need to use it (probably not necessary, I was doing things ahead of time).
  3. Steam the tofu on a plate. Don’t microwave it, I did that, and the structure somehow disintegrated just a little bit.
  4. Pour sauce over hot tofu.

Vege + Dressing = Instafood

Problem: want to eat fresh vegetables, but too lazy to cook after the effort of making onigiri. Here is your solution!

Fresh and crisp and tasty

Tastes best with crispy fresh asparagus, because it’s one of those recipes where the taste of the actual vegetable comes through. It’d probably work with any vegetable actually, or even as a nice salad dressing.

Now wasn't that simple

Asparagus with Sesame Dressing

Adapted from About.com’s Japanese Food section. I wonder if it’s some sort of crime to use recipes from here? I’ve never seen other bloggers use anything from About.com.

About 200g of young asparagus
2-3 tablesp sushi vinegar
1 tablesp soya sauce
1 tablesp sesame oil
2 teasp sugar – or to taste
A few shakes of white pepper
Sesame seeds – I didn’t have this but it would be nice

  1. Cook the asparagus somehow. I fried mine in a little oil, but you could also steam or blanche if you feel so inclined.
  2. Mix up all the sauces and the sugar. Taste. Adjust if you like.
  3. Pour the sauce over the asparagus, add the pepper, and some sesame seeds if you have them.