sis bought this fish couple days back, from a market vendor near her place.
we could not recall the name of the fish. it looked like the fish our grandma cooked sometimes like 50yrs ago, but we could not really be sure.
I googled & asked around including with china relatives; & also friends who asked their relatives in china. still could not quite determine which was it? 扁鱼，鲮鱼，鲫鱼…none really quite fit.
I had no clue how to cook the fish. between sis & I, we roughly recall what the finished dish looked like – it’s like a big pot of fish with either salted vegetables or梅菜 mustard vegetables. I don’t recall the fish being deep-fried so likely only braised, and braising not such an usual method to cook fish.
sis & I also recall seeing this dish (in teochew we called “kor her” 柯鱼 which is like braising fish) at joo seng teochew muay stall at havelock road.
interestingly after I created my own recipe & came up with the final dish, I showed it to 2 different teochew friends & rightaway they recognised the dish. one friend remarked – since his father in law passed on, he never get to eat this dish.
anyhow I decided that the veg should be 甜梅菜 sweet mustard vegetables.
& I also know a good way of preparing that – of course a lot of washing to remove the sand & salt, then fried in pan with sugar & chicken stock, then steamed in steam oven for 1.5hrs like what I did for my 梅菜扣肉 recipe here.
I decided that the stock base should be yellow onions, chinese cabbage, belly pork, lots of garlic cloves, and of course lots of ginger & I used about 12 dried chilli.
I did the dried chilli & onions, garlic, ginger together with the belly pork in oil, fried to soften the onions & get the aroma, then added chinese cabbage & leek, then added vegetable stock, covered & stewed.
the fish I cleaned with salt, keeping the scales & not removing the gills. I think this holds up the fish better since I am braising it. if I am deep-frying it first maybe I will remove the scales & grill, not sure.
& I blanched the fish in boiling water. ie boiled the water first, placed the fish inside & boiled for another few minutes. then I removed the fish. this fish was/looked fishy, so I wanted to remove the fishy smell.
then I put the fish in the wokpan, brought it to boil. added 3 tbsp light soil sauce, added 4 large dried dates.
covered it & braised for 1hr thereabouts.
for the last 15mins I added the steamed mui choy – dried mustard leaves 梅菜 which was very soft.
the braising part is about judging the timing & the liquids. the idea was of course to reduce the liquids so the fish was cooked but holding together not falling apart & the gravy was very tasty & the accompanying vegetables & ingredients were wonderful tasting.
I think I managed that really well la!
the taste of the ingredients & gravy were just superb!
the fish itself was not quite my favourite.
it was the kind of fish with lots of bones. but the fish meat was sweet. the cleaning & blanching treatment had removed most of the fishy smell but still a fish I think only Teochew will eat.
another thing, this fish while it looked like the fish my grandma cooked, it didn’t have the unique bell-shape thing that we like to eat in the fish belly, so we still not sure if this was the fish.
there were 11 fish. I took 2. sis & bil took 5 between them, so left with 4.
I packed the remaining 4 fish with the ingredients for my sis to bring home.
I did not have any interest in this fish actually, but since my sis bought them & brought to may place, so I cooked it. the process though was really quite exciting, and reminiscent of the olden days.
and of course the fish & ingredients came out really well, very tasty. still I not sure if I want to do this again.