We live in a working class town in Central Massachusetts with numerous Universities (Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Mass College of Pharmacy) and Hospitals (UmassMed, Memorial and a bunch of others.) There are also a couple of Vietnamese grocery stores in town (Mekong and Ha Tien.)
What both of these specialty asian food shops have are open bins of fresh whole fish of all stripes (large to small.) One of my favorite trips is to go on a Saturday morning before the crowds hit at midday and to buy two medium size whole striped bass. The guys behind the counter then trim, scale and clean them. Today’s ‘catch’ costs less than $12 for the two fish. And you can’t get fish much fresher than this unless you catch it yourself, it seems!
For dinner tonight, I’m going to steam the striped bass in a large skillet until they’re cooked through. When done, I’ll move them to a large platter and pour a sauce over them (sauteed garlic, ginger, scallions with soy, sherry cooking wine, oyster sauce, a little sweetener, thickened slightly with a cornstarch slurry.) The sauce is heated separately in a pan until it tastes just right (sampling as we go,) and is then poured gently over the fish just when we’re ready to sit down at the table to eat. Because the fish is so tender all by itself, I like to keep the sauce/glaze light and full of flavor but not so salty as to overpower the delectable fish itself.
As a side dish, I’m making Chinese string beans – an experiment to replicate some of those steaming piles of green beans at restaurants that are tender in the middle but still have a bite plus a spicy hot glaze that’s piquant but not overpowering. I looked at some recipes online and I think the secret to the texture/bite is to heat up an inch of of vegetable cooking oil in a covered pot until hot and deep fry the trimmed beans (that have been rinsed but are absolutely dry before putting in the oil) as part one of a two-step cooking process.
I just finished trimming the beans and what I noticed most of all is that these are not regular bean beans like the ones you see in the super market or at the farm stand. I picked these up at the Asian food market and they’re, well, an ASIAN variety of beans. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Anyhow, they are just gorgeous: unblemished, uniformly thin, crisp to the knife. They’re dark green but not as skinny as French haricots verts!
These are going to be great! I never bought string beans at the Asian market before because I thought that all string beans were created equal! Not anymore! So, after I rinsed the beans, I patted them dry with a paper towel before the next step of cooking them in hot oil to kind of par-fry them (as opposed to parboil.)
After 90 seconds frying in the oil, I removed them and drained them on kitchen towel to remove excess oil. THEN, in a skillet, I heated up some fresh oil and sauteed some crushed fresh garlic, minced ginger root, and chopped scallions. I stir-fried the beans quickly in a skillet large enough to move them around and then added some seasoning (a dab of Ohsawha soy sauce and a tiny bit of sugar (splenda).) Then, I sprinkle the cooked beans with a shake of red pepper flakes and tasted it: tender and flavorful. Here’s how they looked.
Both G. and I thought that the steamed fish and string beans were plenty for our dinner and that we didn’t want or need any cooked rice.
So that’s our dinner tonight. I would tag this one as a healthy “foodie pick” for a Saturday night meal. Sound good?