From My Wok to Yours - Taking the Mystery Out of Everyday Dining and Meals!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

McFish Vs. Wen-Fish


Give me a fish, I eat for a day. Teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

As I was driving past one of the big fast food restaurants today, I saw that underneath the huge arches, they had signage featuring their fried fish filet sandwich.  It cracked me up to see that even large corporate entities are finding a way to capitalize on a religious season of sacrifice.  The company is going so far as to advertise its availability as a double sandwich offering. 

Having become a less frequent patron (I have lost my distinction as a “Super Heavy User” in the fast food vernacular) I do make a point of trying different foods when I do go in.  I used to eat lots of hamburgers, fries, you name it.  Every once in a while, I would develop a hankering for a fish sandwich of some sort. 

There are many different kinds of fish sandwiches out there to be devoured by people buzzing through a drive-thru.  What I did notice was that the sandwich served by the company with the red head in pigtails was a little more than an ounce bigger than the one served by a clown.  However, her sandwich had a more significant texture, offering a more substantial bite.  Her  sandwich, as opposed to the clown’s sandwich, is also served with lettuce. 

Her  Premium Fish Fillet sandwich contains 470 calories, with 210 calories from fat, 24.0 grams of total fat, 4.0 grams saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat. It contains 30 mg cholesterol, 930 mg sodium, 300 mg potassium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars and 17 grams of protein.

Clown Man’s  Fish sandwich contains 380 calories, with 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 3.5 saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat. It contains 40 mg cholesterol, 640 mg cholesterol, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars and 15 grams of protein.

Both sandwiches could be considered tasty, flavorful, high-quality foods, but how does a breaded, fried fish fit into the Asian cuisine?

Not well.  Frying fish can be a messy proposition, and many native Asians prefer to find the tiny fish that can be deep fried whole and eaten, bones and all.  (My dad did that for me once, when a fellow fisher gave us a bucket of smelt.  He gutted the fish, breaded them lightly and into the pan they went, tasty treat and all.)  However, it is not an impossible task.

Fish is considered a delicacy, more so than beef and chicken in Chinese cuisine.  The simple task of cooking it is a more delicate matter as well, and a good chef’s skill and ability in cooking fish often set the standard for the restaurant where the chef worked.

The greatest charm in cooking fish in Chinese food is the incorporation of vegetables with the dish that make more of the fish than the fish itself.  While the fish could stand alone without the vegetables, and vice versa, the excellence of the dish is determined by the combination of the two.   

A best practice when selecting a fish to fry is to make sure that it is a firmer variety of meat that will not flake up or break apart.  Bluefish, flounder, cod, bass and sardines are favorites in the cuisine, while shad is a true delicacy.

The two basic ways of cooking fish in China are steaming and simmering.  Both forms of cooking are preferred as they do not raise the fat content of the dish.  Steaming is popular because it allows the sweet juices to seep out.  Simmering is great because you only have to use a small amount of liquid seasoning.  Most importantly when simmering is to make sure that you never let your liquid boil hard or it will ruin the fish.

Remember that fish, like most other foods, continues to cook even when removed from the heat, so try to stop cooking just before the dish is considered done.

Personally, my favorite part about fish is the adventure and excitement that comes with catching it myself.  For now, I will settle on the best that the local grocery stores have.  Later, catch as catch can.

Until then, Good Eating, Friends…

Braised Fish with Light Lemon Sauce
1 whole fish, about 2 pounds, cleaned with scales removed
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons peanut oil
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Rinse fish in cold water and pat dry, then rub the salt on the inside and outside of it and then dredge it in the flour.
2. Heat peanut oil until it is very hot; then gently slide the fish into a skillet or wok and fry three minutes on each side, Remove the fish to a warmed platter and keep it warm.
3. Reheat the remaining oil in that same pan and add ginger root and garlic and toss for about fifteen seconds then add the fish back into the wok, lemon juice, stock, soy sauce, and the sesame oil and simmer it covered for twelve minutes turning the fish once.
4. Carefully remove to a platter and serve on a bed of baby bok choy leaves, with steamed rice.  If desired, garnish with strips of ginger and scallions.



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