Back at the beginning of January I enthusiastically signed up for a number of food, canning and reading challenges. You know, that new year, new outlook feeling, full of the promise of all the things you'll accomplish this year. Four weeks later I'm scrambling to get this post in under the wire. This is my first entry for the CHC Canada 150 Food Blog Challenge 2017. The topic for January is fish and seafood.
I also signed up for Food In Jars Mastery Challenge, however, the deadline for this month came and went and I never did get around to making marmalade. I bought the ingredients to do a couple different recipes but since I'm not really a marmalade fan I ended up eating the grapefruit, drinking the whiskey, and freezing the strawberries. Maybe next month!
CHC's challenge is intriguing because it's in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation and the recipes are supposed to reflect aspects of Canadian history and culture. The suggested topics are:
- An experiment with a historic recipe
- An essay on a topic relating to culinary history
- A contemporary take on a traditional dish
- A report on an event or visit to a historic site
- A family story with a recipe that relates to the topic
- A discussion about historic techniques for gathering, preserving or preparing food
- …or any other similar topic
Many of the foods associated with the Chinese New Year are symbolic for good fortune. Things like dumplings and tangerines are served because they resemble coins, to bring financial luck. Another traditional dish is Longevity Noodles - long noodles are supposed to encourage a long life. The main showpiece dishes are usually chicken and fish, served whole. The character for prosperity, yu, is a homophone for the word for fish, and a whole steamed fish, eyeballs and all, symbolizes abundance and unity.
Steamed Whole Bass in Black Bean Sauce is delicious, and a simple yet impressive dish to make (as long as you don't mind eyeballs staring at you from the plate!) I found sea bass at my local fish market and picked out one that looked very fresh and a perfect size. The young man working the counter took it to be cleaned and gutted and asked it I wanted the head and tail removed. Without thinking I responded, "No thank you, it's for new year". He looked up, his clearly Asian face seeing my clearly not; he grinned and said "Okay, just the fins then."
1 to 1.5 lb whole bass, scaled, cleaned and fins removed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 scallions, cut in one inch pieces
4 slices ginger, slivered
1 tbsp black bean sauce
1 tsp cooking wine
2 tsp peanut or other mild vegetable oil
Wash fish in cold water and pat dry. Make 2-3 diagonal incisions from stomach to backbone on both sides of the fish. Rub with salt & pepper and set aside.
In a small bowl add scallions and ginger, black bean sauce, cooking wine and oil. Mix til blended. Coat fish on one side only, and insert about 1 tbsp in the cavity. Place fish on a heat resistant plate, sauce side up.
Add 1-2 inches of water to a wok or roasting pan. Place a rack in the bottom of the pan and bring water to a boil. Place the plate with fish on the rack making sure it's above the level of the water. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and cook at full steam for 10 minutes. I have also done it by bringing the water to a boil on the stove, adding the fish as above and placing the entire pan in the oven at 325 F for 15 minutes. Check to see if fish is done by inserting a fork to see if it flakes easily.
I don't own a wok so I used a large roasting pan that easily fit a canning rack. This photo borrowed from Serious Eats shows steamed fish done in a wok, either method works fine.
I also was so busy getting ready for the dinner, which included multiple dishes in addition to the fish, I neglected to take any photos of the food and only one of the decor as I was preparing. So enjoy this lovely graphic, also borrowed from the internet, and Happy Year of the Rooster!