A mission statement

Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Monday, July 23, 2012

The Feast of the Free Fishes

3 Free fish
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 T sherry
1 inch pc fresh ginger minced
mountain of celery leaves

Once upon a month, I run up to a little Asian market on Olive Boulevard in St. Louis for a month's worth of cooking ingredients for my Asian cooking adventures.

I say that it's little, but this market is not really that little. It's actually closer to the size of a super Walmart, and it's stuffed full of just about every imaginable ingredient. You can find chicken feet. You can buy all manner of fresh fish. You can find eels and a thousand varieties of tea. One time I thought they didn't have something I wanted, but then a store manager took me right to it.

There is, I will warn you, an odd smell when you walk in the door. I don't know what it is. But if you can get past that intimidating smell, there's a whole new realm of new and exotic cooking ingredients awaiting exploration. I say realm, because there is such a kingly amount of ingredients — but the prices won't set the peasants back too much either.

Last trip, the fresh produce aisle sported my favorite bing cherries for 99 cents a pound, and a large bunch of what looked to be organic green onions for only 99 cents! Closer to home I'd have paid $2.99 a pound for the cherries and $1.99 for the green onions. These weren't on my list, but I know a good deal when I see one, and the cherries were delicious!

I don't know that this is the "best" Asian supermarket in all of St. Louis. But it is right across from the King Wonton tea house where I had my first steamed pork bun, so it's earned a soft spot in my heart. It's definitely worth a stop at both places if you're looking for a little adventure at reasonable expense, but if you go, you absolutely must stop at the teahouse for steamed buns. I insist.

On the way home last time, I stopped off at a gas station to refill my tank and whilst rearranging my bags, I felt something cold among the double dark soy sauce and chrysanthemum tea. Something cold and ... squishy.

Now I didn't buy anything perishable this time ... so what could that be in my bags? That cold squishy stuff!? I was a little apprehensive, but opened the bag quickly. There, shining like dull silver, were three fresh fish! They were cleaned and ready to be cooked.

I don't know how they landed in my groceries exactly. I had a lot of things, but the person ahead of me only had two bags. Unfortunately for that person, he left one of those bags, I guess. St. Louis was by then too far for me to turn back.

Anyone know what these are?
I had no idea what the fish were, and the package just said fresh fish. But that's the beauty of the recipe I'm about to share. You don't even need to know what kind of fish you have. This recipe works with any fish. It nullifies that fishy taste so many people dislike in, well, fish, and gives it a delicate savory flavor that's hard to describe, but very delicious.

This is a steamed recipe, very moderate in fat, and only takes about 20 to 25 minutes on the burner. If you don't have a bamboo steamer, no problem. Just place a metal strainer above a pot. This will do just as well.

I initially found this procedure described in the The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines: China, Greece, and Rome. He didn't really give the dish a name, but I am sure you can guess what I will call it from now on! With apologies to that unfortunate shopper, of course.

Feast of the Free Fish
Cut a one-inch-piece of ginger, peel and pound the piece with a meat mallot to a nice fine mince. No need to be too gentle with it. The crushing releases the flavor, and it's good therapy, too, so swing away! :)
Place the ginger in a large size ziplock baggy along with your 3 free fish
Add 1/4 cup or so of soy sauce and 2 T of Sherry and press the air out of the bag. Marinate these fish for 20 minutes or so.
While the fish are marinating tear the leaves from a bunch of celery. You want a small mountain of good green stuff, so tear all the leaves off. Spare none of them!
After the fish are done marinating, stuff the fish full of celery leaves. Yes, I mean to the gills. :) 

A bamboo steamer is probably ideal for this but guess what, I don't have one, and I bet you don't either. No problem. We improvise. A simple metal strainer will work just fine. Place it over a saucepan with about an inch of water in the bottom. Not so high that water touches the strainer, but enough so you don't run out. (On the other hand if you do run out, no big deal. Just add more water.)
Now add the three free fish to your improvised steaming contraption.
You can kind of bend the tails so they fit just right.
Now cover the mess with a lid. Yes there will be some openings. Steam will escape, and that's perfectly fine.
Steam the fish 8 to 10 minutes until just before done. You want them to be a little tender, but not falling apart yet. Gently transfer the fish to an iron skillet and arrange the remaining celery over and around the fish.
Add a shot of sherry, a shot of chicken broth, and a little more minced ginger, maybe some salt and a favorite pepper. Finish cooking the fish over the bed of celery for about 10 minutes until it is all tender and good. Serve over a nice plate of rice. I stewed mine with a little bow of seaweed that I found at the market in some aisle where I found twenty million different kinds of seaweed but no nori. It's cute no? Tasty too. :)
If you're having a party to share your free fish with others, the Frugal Gourmet mentions finishing these in a fish-shaped pan over a burner right at the table. I like the idea. Sounds bold and fun. Nice presentation. Good conversation starter. Easy to do. It'd be a great idea for a party. But I was just making lunch, so I finished mine over the stove. The boring way.

But then I stuffed one-half of one fish into a little box with some togarashi seasoned rice and some of those fresh, found cherries from the market for a lunch that was anything but boring! Bon appetit!

My favorite part of cooking adventures. A lunch that's
worth talking about at the office. :)


  1. Great story Renee! And you tell it so well too! Very nicely done! Don't know what kind of fish you ended up with. I think my parents frequent the same Asian market, though I don't know the name. Maybe I'll try this recipe one day when I'm brave. Keep cooking and telling!
    p.s. I think all asian markets have that smell and I think it's the fish.

  2. This recipe is super simple, Diane, I encourage you to give it a try! You will love the way the fish tastes. I used to only eat fish drenched in lemon, but this is so so much better.

  3. We call it tilapia, good as fried, steamed, with coconut milk, paksiw, roasted over charcoal with tomatoes and shallots inside.


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