I’m not much motivated to make resolutions, but I am a goal driven person – so what may at times seem like a time oriented resolution (ie, New Year’s), may really just be a desire to learn or experience something new. Currently I have an itch to fill a gap of knowledge regarding ‘steaming’, which I suspect here in the U.S. is a form of cooking that is both un-respected (given its health benefits) and under-utilized. So, for those of you who insist that everyone should have a new year’s resolution, consider me in – I hereby resolve to learn more about steaming, and to expand my personal repertoire of steaming experiences – and of course, I’ll be posting on those experiences. If that’s a new year’s resolution, so be it.
I suppose if I were a vegetarian, I’d be more experienced in steaming, for steaming lends itself to vegetables so well – but actually, it’s the non-vegetable steaming that interests me the most. I’ve had steamed meat and fish that have been such unique taste experiences that they seemed to be completely new foods! And I’ve had magnificent Japanese seafood custards steamed in small cups that were equally unique. But I think the most ‘foreign’ of all steamed foods to most Americans are found in the world of steamed breads.
Certainly Mexican tamales are a familiar restaurant item to many Americans, but many eaters would be stopped cold when asked to identify how those tamales are cooked – yet tamales, and their kin, are some of the world’s most famous kinds of steamed breads, as many different cultures have their own versions. Another similar surprise may arise from the identification of how Asian bao are cooked, for these are even more readily identified as ‘breads’, but most of us have a difficult time in thinking of ‘steamed’ breads.
But all of the above hold a fascination for me, and I shall be spending a good deal of my leisure time, of which I have plenty these days, in discovering all I can about this fascinating segment of the culinary world. Of course, I have something to share with you today, and I think it’s a good intro item, since it is so damn simple, and even perhaps, one of the world’s most healthy ways to prepare fish for dinner. This particular way of doing fish is a favorite with my wife, Sandee, because she is trying hard right now to limit her intake of fats, and often I do not help with that effort (my usual ways to cook fish are either by sauteing, or broiling with butter). But by steaming the fish, the fat intake is reduced to almost nothing, while even increasing the ‘taste’ intake! And did I mention it’s simple besides?
There is one small catch, but then, all cooking involves some kind of small catches, yes? And that is equipment. I have a magnificent 3 tier Thai steamer made from very light aluminum – it is so light and seemingly fragile, that at first glance, it would appear a poor investment – but mine is now more than 12 years old, and none the worse for wear.
Potential buyers needn’t worry. But if you don’t have one of these dandy steamers, the equally excellent bamboo kinds (they fit nicely inside a wok) will do just as well. What? You have neither! Fret not, for the world of steaming is ever adaptable. and we have some suggestions on how all cooks can create a steamer out of whatever they already have in their kitchen.
For those of you who are already equipped with an adequate steamer, please excuse us while we talk to those who are not – at an absolute minimum, you’ll need a good sized pot with a lid – if you have this, you’re home free. Do you have something that looks a little like this:
These are amazing things! They expand in and out to fit any size pot, and have little legs on the bottom to keep the food out of the water. If you don’t have one, get down to your local thrift store – I’ve seen them for a buck or so – they are not hard to find, maybe even at the dollar store – just make sure it’s an expandable type, so it can fit into any size pot.
If you don’t want to get that fancy, all you really need is something you can put into the bottom of your covered pot that won’t be harmed by the boiling water – something like a few pieces of older silverware, or a few wads of aluminum foil – just something that sit above some boiling water, and hold up a dish over the top of the water. If you have a few canning jar rings around, they’ll work well. The idea is to keep your food out of the boiling water, but in the steam – and you only need enough water to stay boiling for about 10 minutes for most things.
OK? We all should be together now. The really simple dish I’m going to make with you is a steamed white fleshed fish – any white fleshed fish. Works best with a boned fillet, but no reason why you can’t do a whole small fish, or a chunk with skin on. And if you’re fortunate enough to have one of these handy multiple tiered kinds like mine, you can also steam some vegetables right along with the fish – just remember that some veggies will steam faster than others.
Steamed Asian Marinated Fish
2-3 nice white fish fillets of your choice (sole, halibut, sea bass, cod, rock fish, tilapia, catfish, or swai)
1/2 cup fresh coriander
4-5 thick slices of fresh ginger
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh coriander
2 Tbsp light soy sauce (Japanese, like Kikkoman, is a light soy sauce – Chinese soy sauces will most often note if it is light, if it does not, and it has a thick dark look, mix half and half with water)
1 tsp dark toasted sesame oil (the darker, the more flavor it’ll have!)
1 Tbsp sake or white wine
Fresh coriander and/or thinly sliced green onion
Mix sauce ingredients and marinate fish in sauce for about 30 minutes or more.
Heat steamer and place coriander and ginger slices in upper tray of steamer.
Arrange marinated fish over coriander and ginger – once steamer is active, close top and steam for 5-8 minutes.
Plate steamed fish (nice over rice) and garnish with minced/torn coriander and/or green onion – you may drizzle the remaining sauce over all, if desired – it’s also nice with rice or splashed over steamed veggies too.
My Notes: As you see, I also steamed some broccoli with my fish, and I let it go for the full five minutes that the fish was cooking – next time, I’ll pull the broccoli at 3 minutes – I think it was a bit overdone at 5 minutes. Frankly, even the fish, which was cut thin, could have been pulled at 4 minutes. Steaming too long will just toughen whatever you’re cooking – I guess this is a matter of experience with the equipment you’re using.
And if you’re paying attention, along with the clutter of garnish on the fish are what looks like tiny french fries, but they’re not – those are an additional garnish of julienned ginger slivers quickly sauteed until only the tips show brown – sounded interesting, but I thought upon tasting that it was not worth the prep – if you like the idea, give it a try.
In the meantime, I’ll be looking for new ways I can use my Thai steamer for some creative and tasty dishes I can blog about.