Noodle House Style Idiot Fish!
Today's entrée has a nice fusion of popular Chinese and Vietnamese ingredients. Lemongrass (Xả) is a great herb flavor for delicate tasting seafood. Lemongrass infused water carries the flavor when it turns to steam and this imparts a nice flavor for fish.
Vietnamese Perilla (Tiá Tô) is in the mint family of plants, just like basil. Vietnamese Perilla leaves are green on top and purple underneath. Vietnamese Perilla are milder tasting than Green Perilla, yet the flavor is still very complex.
Chinese Corn Vermicelli Noodles are made with ground dried corn and they are not like Korean Corn Noodles that are made out of corn starch. Corn Vermicelli Noodles kind of taste like American corn bread. I really like the flavor of Chinese corn noodles, because they go well with seafood.
Kohlrabi is popular for making Vietnamese salads and soups. Kohlrabi is native to India and it tastes like a combination of cabbage and broccoli.
The featured ingredient in today's recipe is Idiot Fish. Idiot Fish are also called Shortspine Thornyhead, Longspine Thornyhead and Idiot Cod. Idiot Fish live in very deep water that contains very little oxygen or sun light. Idiot Fish have big eyes and their mouths usually hang open like a cartoon caricature of an idiot. They are deep red in color, small and there are only two small short filets of meat.
Idiot fish actually are in the Scorpionfish family, just like Rockfish and Pacific Ocean Perch. Idiot Fish spines do contain minuscule amounts of neurotoxins, but not as much as the deadly Scorpionfish species. The downside of handling raw Idiot Fish is that they are covered with very sharp spines that can easily puncture skin and cause infections.
To served poached whole Idiot Fish is to knowingly serve a dangerous meal. A customer that orders whole poached idiot fish must made aware that the spines are sharp and there are many of them. The spines of a poached whole Idiot Fish do add to the exotic food presentation, so they should be retained.
Filleting Idiot Fish is not worth the effort, because there is very little meat on this species of fish. Other fish can be substituted for idiot fish in this recipe, if you are shy about whole fish presentations and sharp spines! Red Bream and Tilapia are good choices.
Just like deep water Ruby Red Shrimp, the Idiot Fish meat has a rich clean flavor and it is coated with sticky fat. The meat is white and it flakes like King Crab claw meat. The layer of sticky fat is much darker than the meat. Idiot Fish are usually poached or steamed whole and are only delicately seasoned.
Canadian and Japanese Shortspine Idiot Fish currently are endangered species. Longspine and Shortspine Idiot Fish from the California coastline are sustainable, because of strict federal regulations.
All species of Idiot Fish are dwindling in numbers, even though strict regulations and the high price of fuel have restricted fishing for idiot fish. There is another factor involved in the declining idiot fish numbers, but marine biologists cannot state exactly what the problem is. It is probably due to the deep water low oxygen related slow breeding cycle of this fish.
I rarely feature a recipe for a fish that is dwindling in numbers, because I try to only feature sustainable seafood. I did choose sustainable Idiot Fish from the California fishery for today's recipe, but I have no plans to cook more of this fish species. Those who practice sustainable seafood ideals, do have to exhibit self control. Sometimes trying a species of fish only once, is enough for a lifetime. Gluttony and greed are the cause of most seafood sustainability issues.
Lemongrass Steamed Idiot Fish with Chinese Corn Noodles, Kohlrabi and Vietnamese Perilla:
This recipe yields 1 entrée.
Be sure to have all the ingredients ready, before starting to cook this recipe! The stir fry vegetables and sauce at the end of the recipe only take a few minutes to cook.
Step 1: Place 1 quart of light white fish broth (fumet) in a steamer pot.
Tie a long fresh lemongrass stalk into a simple knot.
Place the lemongrass knot in the pot.
Add 2 pinches of sea salt white pepper.
Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
Step 2: Place the pot over medium heat.
Allow the lemongrass broth to gently boil and reduce, till 2 cups of liquid remain.
Keep the steaming broth warm over very low heat, till later in the recipe.
Step 3: Cook 1 portion of Chinese Corn Vermicelli Noodles in boiling water.
When the noodles become tender, drain off the hot water.
Place the noodles in ice water and stir, so they cool quickly and gain a chewy texture.
Drain the water off of the corn noodles and set them aside.
Step 4: Place 2 small Idiot Fish in steam basket. Spread the fins out, so they look nice.
*The whole idiot fish should only gutted and scaled. The head and fins should be left on the fish.
Step 5: Raise the temperature of the lemongrass broth pot to high heat and bring the broth to a boil.
Place the steam basket and idiot fish in the pot. (The steam basket should be elevated, so the fish does not make contact with the broth.)
Place a lid on the pot.
Steam the fish, till they are fully cooked.
Step 6: Remove steam basket with the idiot fish from the pot.
Set the steam basket on a stove top.
Keep the steam basket and fish covered and warm, while the sauce is quickly made.
Step 7: The lemongrass steaming broth will be rich tasting by now!
Remove lemongrass knot and discard it.
Keep the lemongrass broth warm on a stove top.
Step 8: Heat sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
Briefly sauté till the garlic becomes aromatic and till it turns a golden color.
Step 9: Add 1 small whole Red Thai Pepper that has the top cut off.
Add 1/4 cup of kohlrabi that is cut into 1/4" thick stick shapes. (1/4"x1/4"x4")
Add 1/8 cup of sliced Bermuda Onion.
Add 1/8 cup of julienne carrot. (1/8"x1/8"x4")
Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces
Sauté and stir fry till the vegetables start to become tender.
Step 10: Add 1 1/4 cups of the lemongrass poaching broth.
Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
*Add sea salt and white pepper only if the flavor needs adjusted!
Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a slurry.
Add the slurry while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a medium thin sauce consistency.
Step 11: Add 8 Vietnamese Perilla Leaves.
Add the reserved cooked corn noodles.
Toss ingredients together.
Remove the pan from the heat.
Delicate steamed fish, like Idiot Fish, can be easily damaged. The whole lemongrass steamed Idiot Fish are the focal point of this entrée, so they have to look nice!
Place the sauced corn noodles and vegetables on an oval shaped plate.
Carefully use a spatula to remove one lemongrass steamed Idiot Fish at a time from the steam basket.
Set the Idiot Fish on top of the corn noodles and vegetables.
Garnish the plate with Vietnamese Perilla Leaves.
*After the plate is presented, the filets can be easily popped off of the bones and the fish carcass can be removed and set aside. Some guests like to fiddle around with the fish on their own. Be sure to warn the guests that the spines are sharp!
This is an interest looking plate of noodle house food that is exotic and exciting!