I’m sorry, Eastern China. I’ve been trying so hard all week to stay on task, to motivate myself to cook the foods I had planned, but time and again, I’ve opted for laziness.
One night this week I chose to eat half an acorn squash with yogurt and honey for dinner rather than make a proper meal (it was delicious, in case you were wondering). Another night, peanut butter toast. This lacklusterness was the reason I started this blog in the first place! To prevent the laziness! I’ve lapsed into my old ways.
However, ingredients were bought, so despite my feelings on the matter, cook I must. First up, honeyed cod (mì zhí yá xué yú) with a bean sprout and leek salad (liáng bàn dòu yá) on the side.
First point of clarification: No actual honey is used in this recipe. Weird, and maybe something was lost in translation.
Second point of explanation: I don’t particularly like bean sprouts. Mama Buddha used to make them seemingly ad nauseum and since a kid, I’ve been averse. Today, I try and find a way to mix things up, and give the sprout a fighting chance to win itself into my good graces.
Blah. Blah. BLAH.
First, my thoughts on the salad. The original recipe was okay, but needed some pizzaz, so I took some initiative and added some lime juice for tang, cilantro for green, chili sauce for kick and toasted sesame seeds for texture. That did it, and with that, bean sprouts have been redeemed.
As for the fish, the original recipe called for frying. I don’t do that, so pan searing in a cast iron was how that part went. Taste-wise, cod is cod, and it is sort of a blank slate, meaning the flavor from this dish comes from the sauce. One reason that I chose to make these two dishes together is that the base of the dressing and the fish sauce were the same: sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, thus tying them together for a cohesive meal.
I was surprised to learn that when making the sauce as directed, it came out…gooey. You know, the way that you actually picture take away Chinese food to be. This occurred despite the fact that I did not add the MSG as directed. I try to avoid chemicals in my food where possible, so I’d scrap the whole dish before I added MSG to it. Still, the cornstarch was the fatal blow, and the sauce ended up being a heavy gelationous medium, despite having nothing really inherently goopy in it.
So make the salad, ditch the fish.
Recipes taken from The Great Book of Chinese Cooking
For the salad:
14 ounces bean sprouts
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB soy sauce
1 tsp chili paste
1 lime, juiced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Sesame seeds, to garnish
1. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water for 1 minute only. Drain well and refresh under running cold water. Drain again and set aside.
2. Wash the leek thoroughly and slice into thin rings. Place these in a large salad bowl with the bean sprouts. Toss with the cilantro and the dressing made from the vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, chili paste, lime juice and sesame oil.
3. Serve sprinkled with the sesame seeds.
For the fish:
1 ¾ pound cod fillets
1 ½ TB soy sauce
Oil for the pan
For the sauce:
1 TB oil
1 ½ tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp finely chopped scallions
1 ½ TB rice wine
1 TB sugar
2 ½ TB soy sauce
1 TB sesame oil
1 TB cornstarch
1. Marinate the fish in the soy sauce for about 10 minutes.
2. Cook the fish: heat the oil in a skillet and cook the fish, ten minutes per side until the fish flakes. Remove and set aside.
3. Make the sauce: heat the oil and stir fry the ginger and scallion briefly. Add the other sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch. Boil to reduce a little.
4. Blend the cornstarch with a little cold water, stir until all the lumps are out, and stir into the thickened sauce. Place the fish in the sauce, turn to coat and transfer to a serving platter.
This is admittedly completely random, but look how big this leek is! For perspective, my wingspan is approximately 5’9.