Saturday, January 8, 2011

Squirrel Fish (松鼠鱖魚)

This Squirrel Fish is the most well-known fish dish in Jiangsu cuisine and in chinese, 松鼠鱖魚.  Animal lovers please do not be alarmed,  there are  no actual squirrels involved. 

In making this dish,  a whole fish is deboned with the fillet still attached to the tail,  the fillet is then cut in a cross-hatch pattern and when deep fried, will look like a squirrel in flight. The sauce served with it, is a sweet, slightly tangy and pleasantly red, of which  the main ingredient is tomato ketchup.  Red is the auspicious color for the chinese, so this sauce is most appropriate for the Chinese New Year.

Like a lot of Chinese dishes, there is a story behind the dish "Squirrel Fish."

Apparently, a long time ago, an Emperor wanted to eat carp, but carp was verboten, forbidden by his own laws. Of course, being the Emperor, he wanted to get his waym and told his chef that his head would be on the ground if he was not served carp.. His chef then had to devise a way to make the carp un-carplike and using his kitchen techniques , made the fish to look like a flying squirrel instead.  Good job, Chef, I bet you kept your head and a higher hat bestowed by the Emperor to put on it.

Ingredient:A 2-pound red snapper, cleaned and fillet
Please watch this
1/2 pound shrimp - diced small and seasoned with salt, sugar and pepper.

Marinate for the fish:1 tbsp chopped ginger - smashed and then chopped very fine
1 stalk spring onion - smashed and then chopped
1 tbsp shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the chopped ginger and spring onions with salt and shaoxing wine.

 The Sauce:

5 - 6 ginger slices
1 stalk spring onions - cut into 1 inch lengths
2 cloves garlic - slice
4 - 5 tbsp tomato ketchup
Salt and sugar to taste
1 tsp tapioca starch plus 1 tbsp water - for thickening
2 tbsp oil plus 1 tsp sesame oil.
Enough peanut oil or vegetable oil for deeping frying
Tapioca Starch and white pepper for coating

Descale the red snapper and wash under cold running water. Pat it dry inside and out with paper towels. With a cleaver or heavy, sharp knife, remove the head at the point where it joins the body and angle the cleaver to the back of the pectoral fin and make a cut. Turn fish over and repeat the same, renoving the head and part of the loin. Now, remove the head from the loin. Open up the loin and loosen up the bone and meat by pounding lightly with the back of the cleaver.

The next step is to fillet the flesh, starting from the section where the head used to be and holding it down with the palm of your hand, position the knife blade where the backbone is and begin to cut toward the tail,(Use the backbone to guide your knife), stopping short of the tail. Turn fish over and do likewise with the other fillet. Remove the backbone.(reserve this and the head for stock). The tail is still attached to the filleted body.

Open the fish out flat, skin side downward. Remove the lower part of the loin which has all the bones(reserve for stock) from both of the fillets.

With the opened fish skin side down, make deep straight 1 inch incisions from the tail to the head. Then from the head, make 1 inch slanting incisions across, making cube like pattern, taking care not to puncture the skin on the underside while cutting the incisions.

Marinate fillet and loin by squeezing out the juices from the ginger and spring onions together with the wine and salt. Sprinkle with white pepper and leave to marinate for 15 - 30 minutes.

Heat enough oil for deep frying.

Coat the marinated fish and loin with tapioca starch, making sure that all the surface of the flesh is coated.

When oil is hot enough, 350f, place coated fish on to a large slotted ladle and lower fish into the hot oil. Using a pair of wooden chopstick, position the fillets and the tail, so that they are fried in the desired shape. Deep fry until golden brown. Remove the ladle from the oil and let the oil temperature builds up to 375f. Lower the ladle with the fried fish, into the oil and continue to deep fry until crispy. Remove and let oil drain before plating the fried fish.

To fry the shrimp:

Heat wok until hot before adding in 1/2 cup of oil, when oil is shimmering, add the diced and marinated shrimp and cook until the shrimps turn pink. Remove and set aside.

To make the sauce

Heat wok and add in 2 tbsp oil. When oil is hot, add in ginger slices, spring onions and garlic slices. Saute until fragrant and remove the ginger, garlic and spring onion, leaving the fragrant oil behind.

Add in the tomato ketchup, stir well to combine.

Add in stock and adjust taste with sugar and salt.

Add in diluted tapioca starch to thicken. Make sure the sauce come back to the boil before adding in more oil for shine. Sprinkle with sesame oil and pour sauce over the fried fish.

Put the sauted shrimp on top of the fish and garnish with blanched green leefy vegetable.

Enjoy and may your wishes come true for the year to come.

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