Thanks to my friend Christine Chanbonpin Go, I have enjoyed occasionally Chinese-style steamed fish right in my home.
Christine gladly shared her recipe for this exquisite dish in one of our gatherings, and I’ve been cooking it whenever I get hold of some fresh whole lapu-lapu or maya-maya. Chris says she has tweaked the original recipe a few times, and the result has always been delectable.
Last week, wondering what to do with a medium-size lapu-lapu that was delivered by our favorite source of fresh fish, I decided to do my own tweaking of Christine’s recipe—by poaching the fish instead of steaming it.
Poaching is a method of cooking food gently in a hot liquid. Unlike boiling or frying, poaching produces a delicate flavor and texture. Also, because the liquid comes in direct contact with the food, the dish turns out moist, with a subtle flavor imparted by the poaching liquid.
In this case, the poaching liquid I used consisted of rice wine, soy sauce and water, infused with ginger, garlic, coriander leaves (wansuy), spring onions and just a hint of sugar.
I’m happy to say this kitchen experiment turned out well. The lapu-lapu was moist and flavorful, with the poaching liquid conveniently becoming the sauce for the fish—and also being good for spreading on hot rice.
Moreover, unlike steaming, where the fish is enclosed in a steamer that should not be opened midway in the cooking (because it would lower the cooking temperature), in poaching, the fish is cooked in an open pan, so you can visually monitor its progress from a raw state to a cooked one. This takes the guess work out of cooking—and lessens the chances of overcooking or undercooking the fish.
1 medium-size lapu-lapu, well cleaned
2 c hot water, for the fish
¼ c corn oil
4 slices ginger
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ c chopped coriander leaves, divided
¼ c chopped spring onions, divided
1 Tbsp sugar
¼ c water
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c rice wine
1 small carrot, cut into round pieces
Cut three slits on both sides of the fish. Place the fish in a heatproof container and pour the hot water over it. Let stand for a few minutes.
Meanwhile heat the corn oil in a large wok. Add the ginger, garlic, half of the coriander leaves, half of the spring onions and the sugar, and stir well. Pour in the ¼ c water, soy sauce and rice wine and stir gently. Add the carrots and bring the liquid to a low simmer. Let simmer for two to three minutes to let the flavors meld.
Remove the fish from the hot water and carefully lay it in the simmering corn oil mixture. Simmer gently for about three minutes. While the fish is simmering, keep spooning some of the liquid on top of the fish. Turn the fish over and let the other side cook while continuing to spoon the cooking liquid on top of the fish. Let simmer for three to four more minutes or until the fish is fully cooked.
Turn off the heat and transfer the fish to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander leaves and green onions. Spoon the sauce (including the carrots) over the fish. Serve hot. Makes 2-3 servings.