Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Whitefish in Ginger Sauce with Spinach

I may or may not have mentioned that my boyfriend Richard cooks, too. Having learned to cook while living in Japan for a couple of years, the food he makes tends to be Asian, or at least Asian-inspired. Also it's generally really good. Vegetables cooked just beautifully, with flavorful but light (as in, non-greasy) sauces and a nice balance of meat or fish, tofu, vegetables, and of course rice. I'm always surprised by the seemingly effortless marriage of savory and sweet in most of these dishes, and am pleased to have the opportunity to share one with you. I got him to write it down for me before he forgot, for this was certainly an on-the-spot creation for dinner the other night. I liked it so much I seriously considered making it for myself the next day. It was inspired by a handful of Vietnamese recipes he'd been reading, if I recall correctly.

If you don't have these sauces on hand, know that they're only $3 or $4 a bottle and are available in most grocery stores, and they're really nice to have on hand for the sake of variety. The marinades you can whip up with sriracha hot sauce, nam pla fish sauce, sesame oil, mirin, rice wine, etc, are always, always delicious, in my experience. Lucky for me, we've developed quite a collection. Note that the fish sauce smells funky if you're not used to it, but I promise it tastes good. Have faith in me, k? I won't feed you anything nasty. I'm too picky an eater for that.
Sriracha is known as "cock sauce" among some friends of ours, due to the crowing rooster on the bottle. It's way more fun than saying "sriracha." Try it.

He also made green beans sauteed in a sweet sauce with crushed sesame seeds, but the recipe is written in Japanese so unfortunately I can't share it with you until he has time to translate it for me. Doh!

Whitefish in Ginger Sauce

1 large fillet of whitefish or tilapia
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp freshly ground ginger, not powder
2 shallots, minced
1 to 2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
about half a bundle of fresh spinach, stems removed

In a large bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, lemon juice, and ginger. Place the fish fillet scales-up in the marinade and set aside.
In a skillet over high heat, sautee the shallots in the oil, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft. Shove them aside with your spatula to clear the center, leaving some oil. Place the fish scales-up in the middle of the pan and sear it for a minute or two. Set the marinade aside and stir the shallots a bit so they don't burn. Flip the fish over, add the marinade and 1/3 cup water and stir with the spatula. Shove the shallots closer to the fish and lay the spinach in the skillet on top of everything.
When the spinach is shriveled and soft, and the fish is opaque, remove from heat and serve with rice, drizzling the remaining marinade over the fillet.

This fish goes very well with some sake.


  1. YAY fish-ipes!!! I cant wait to make this! Is whitefish fishy? Do other fish work with this too?

  2. Whitefish isn't much more fishy than tilapia (so no). You can use any fish you want, but I'm not sure how it would go with something like tuna or salmon. It might be really awesome.
    Soaking it face-down in the marinade gets most of the fishiness taken care of. If you're really worried about it, you can cut into the thicker part of the fish and make sure plenty of marinade gets deep down in there before you cook it.

  3. I finally made this last night, but with flounder fillets. It was REALLY good, but too much ginger for me. The ginger i got was soopafresh and really potent and i prolly only needed about half what the recipe called for, otherwise i like a lil bit more sriracha, i put that shit on everything.....YUM

    And i made mine with string beans.... i sauteed garlic, salt, a lil ginger and some olive oil together,then added 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, let it reduce, and tossed fresh string beans in it and covered em in toasted almonds....twas mexcellent.