Nowadays, I often find myself wondering: How did she do it? How did my mom manage to work full-time, study part-time, and still put a homemade dinner on the table for us every day? It’s absolutely mind-blowing, especially considering that I have trouble taking care of myself — without three bratty kids demanding my attention.
My mom, in addition to being Superwoman, is a seasoned cook and had a variety of tricks up her sleeve to help make the dinner process somewhat easier. For one, I was often enlisted to help her in the kitchen (though how helpful I was, I can’t say, since I’ve retained so few of the culinary skills I practiced in my childhood). My mom also had a number of dishes which were so much a part of her muscle memory, I’m sure she could make them with her eyes closed. Among these go-to’s: steamed fish stuffed with ginger.
This wasn’t my favorite dish as a kid — only the likes of pizza and fries could make it to those exalted echelons of culinary greatness. However, as with most Vietnamese dishes of my childhood, I’m now all about it. Jay, as a man of simple tastes, is also obviously enamored with this healthy, refreshing meal. A similarly easy accompaniment: roasted vegetables. This whole meal takes all of 15 minutes to make, requires a handful of ingredients, and tastes bright and flavorful (especially if you take care to pick fresh, delicious fish).
I owe my mother many thanks for this recipe (among numberless other things)! It has easily made the leap from my mom’s mental recipe rolodex to mine.
Steamed soy-ginger fish
Recipe from many conversations with my mom, with some technical guidance from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking, courtesy of 7×7
Note about equipment: You will need a steamer. If you don’t have one, you can MacGyver it (as I did in the past). You will need three elements: (1) the main pot/wok, with lid, in which water can boil; (2) a heatproof plate that will fit inside the lidded pot/wok, on which the fish will be cooking; and (3) an element that will fit inside your pot/wok, which will elevate the plate above the boiling water. Key to this is making sure that the plate and boiling water do not touch. In the past, I’ve used a wok and metal grill — but you can absolutely get creative if you need to. Just make sure everything you use is safe in high temperatures.
- 3 filets of white fish – I used tilapia
- salt and pepper
- 1/8 cup of fresh ginger, julienned
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
- 1 scallion, julienned into matchsticks
- 1/4 bunch of cilantro
- Rinse and pat dry the fish. Season with salt and pepper.
- Put half of your ginger on a heatproof plate that will fit inside the steamer. Put the fish on the plate, and add the remaining ginger.
- Bring the water in the steamer to a boil.
- Place the plate (with the fish and ginger) into the steamer and cover. Cook until the fish flakes easily with the tip of your knife.
- While the fish is steaming, make your sauce: whisk together the soy sauce, water, and rice vinegar. Set aside.
- When the fish is done, remove from steamer and pour off excess water (this water will likely be “fishy-tasting,” so we don’t want to keep it!).
- Lay the scallion and cilantro on top of the fish. Pour the sauce on top and serve.
- 2 bunches (about 10 stalks) of broccolini
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Toss the broccolini with the shallot and olive oil. Make sure to get an even coating on the broccolini.
- Place the broccolini on a roasting pan and bake in oven until golden (about 15 minutes, but your time may vary).
- Remove and serve.