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Few entree choices are healthier than fish. For many people, however, fish just isn't as filling as they'd like it to be. Those hoping to make their fish a more substantial dish should consider the following recipe for classic steamed fish with pork, mushroom and noodles from Andrea Nguyen's "Into the Vietnamese Kitchens" (Ten Speed Press).

Classic steamed fish with pork, mushroom and noodles

Serves four to six

Filling

2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion

1/4 pound ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen

4 dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 bundle (1.3 ounces) cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water until pliable, drained and cut into 4- to 6-inch lengths

2 scallions, green part only, cut into 2-inch lengths

Black pepper

Chubby 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 whole striped bass, 1 3/4 to 2 pounds, cleaned with head and tail intact

2 scallions, white part only, cut lengthwise, into thin strips

1 Roma tomato, cored, cut lengthwise into three wedges, and seeds removed

4 to 6 sprigs cilantro

1. To make the filling, heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and saute for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the pork and mushrooms and use chopsticks or a spatula to break the meat into small pieces so that it will be well distributed later. Cook, stirring, for


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about 2 minutes, or just until the pork is no longer pink, then remove from the heat. Add the fish sauce, noodles and scallions and stir for about 1 minute, or until the noodles are soft and transparent. Season to taste with pepper and set aside. (The filling may be prepared up to 4 hours in advance. Let cool, cover and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before using.)

2. Rinse the fish well, removing any membranes and blood that the fishmonger may have overlooked. Generously rub the fish inside and out with salt, then rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat the fish dry with paper towels. Lay the fish flat on your work surface and, with a sharp knife, score it crosswise at three or four places, spacing the slits about 1 inch apart.

3. Set aside a few white scallion strips for garnish and tuck the remainder into the score marks. Select a heatproof plate or non-reactive cake or pie pan 1 inch smaller in diameter than your steamer tray. Lay the fish on the plate or pan, bending it as needed. Stuff half of the filling in the cavity and arrange the rest over the fish. Put the tomato wedges on top and place the plate in the steamer tray.

4. Fill the steamer pan half full with water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Place the tray in the steamer, cover and steam the fish for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a knife inserted at the thickest part easily pierces the flesh all the way to the bone.

5. When the fish is done, turn off the heat. Use pot holders or a Chinese steamer retriever to remove the plate or pan from the steamer. Since the dish is hot, consider sliding it onto a platter and carrying it to the table. If you want to transfer the fish to a warmed serving platter, use two wide spatulas, and remember to pour the delicious juices onto the platter, too. Garnish with the reserved scallion strips and the cilantro. Serve immediately.

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