Food excites me. My senses heighten with anything food-related… the sounds of hustle and bustle in the market... The look of pleasure in people’s faces when they savor their food... the smell of seaweed in the ocean after a storm... a cherimoya’s perfect balance of sweetness and acidity or the slight give on the flesh of a fresh tuna. So when Carlton asked me to share recipes in our newsletter, I didn’t know where to start. But after pondering on it, I decided to share a meal that sustained me at least once a day when I was growing up-- a plate of boiled rice scented with lemongrass, pan-fried fish and sautéed greens.
Yield: 4 servings
Cost per serving: $3.00
Calories per serving: approximately 500 calories
Prep and cooking time: 30 minutes
3 pcs pandan or lemongrass leaves
1 lb baby bokchoy, trimmed & washed, cut in half lengthwise
1 T vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
A pinch of salt
A dash of soy sauce
A dash of fish sauce
A pinch of pepper flakes
4 4-oz. Spanish mackerel fillet (or tilapia/trout/salmon)**
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. vegetable oil
Dipping Sauce: 2 T soy sauce, 1 t lemon/ponzu, a pickled hot pepper and minced lemongrass (optional)
**I love the skin on the fish so most times, I buy the fish whole and ask them to clean and fillet it for me. I suggest you give it a try as well.
Cook rice as you usually would and add a ribbon of pandan or lemon grass. This will not alter the taste of the rice rather it will lend it a beautiful bouquet.
In the time being, in a medium saucepan, bring 4-cups of water to a boil. Parboil the bokchoy for one minute, and transfer to a colander.
Season the fish with salt and pepper. I suggest you do this liberally, since some with end up in the oil when pan-fried. Heat a non-stick pan to medium high for about 30 seconds, and then add 2 T oil to the pan and heat the oil until heated but not smoking. It is important to heat the pan and oil to the right temperature so the fish won’t stick to the pan and absorb oil. (Tip: Let your palm hover 2-inches from the pan for about 5 seconds. If you feel the heat in your palm, the pan is ready). Pan fry per side for about 5 minutes. Don’t crowd the pan—make sure there is enough space between the pieces so they fry (and not boil). When ready, set aside.
Clean the pan with a ball of paper towel and bring back to medium heat. Add 1 T oil, and sauté the garlic until brown. Add the bokchoy, season with fish sauce and soy sauce and pepper flakes, cook for about a minute then remove from heat.
Assemble plate and serve with dipping sauce. I actually drizzle the dipping sauce in my rice and veggies as well. Enjoy!