Last week, I had the opportunity to prepare and serve lunch for eight executives at a certain company. I was asked to prepare one beef, chicken, fish and Nigerian food for lunch. I prepared a mustard roast beef, parsley roast potatoes, lamb stuffed chicken with garlic butter, chicken kebabs and a lemongrass fish with turmeric rice. As successful as the event was, my prized glory was the lemongrass fish.
The inspiration for the dish came from my last special that had a thai inspired lemongrass chicken dish on the menu, I named it “Thai Jollification”. That was basically my springboard. However, I wanted to clearly do it with fish and not have a “fried rice” so I decided to do something simple that would soak up that rich lemongrass and coconut. Before I go on with the recipe, this dish isn’t like a hundred percent Thai, it’s a mixture of different Asian influences hence “Here, There and Asia”, for example cardamom pods are more Indian, the coconut milk is very Thai and the soy sauce is Chinese. Forgive the sloppy falling of the rice, I put a tad much of butter to rejuvenate the rice and it refused to sit still when I placed the fish on top but hey, I scout swear it’s a fantastic dish. I’ll shut up now and get to it.
- 3 fillets white fish
- 2-3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 medium root stalks of lemon grass finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 50 g butter
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 6 root stalks of cleaned lemon grass
- 2 medium onions roughly sliced
- 4 large cloves garlic crushed
- 1 medium head ginger sliced
- 4-6 dry red Kashmir chilies
- 3 green chilies
- 1 tin coconut milk (400ml)
- 2 tablespoons vinegar (rice wine vinegar would be best but regular vinegar would do)
- 2-3 tablespoons Fish Sauce or Light soy sauce
- 400ml water
- 250 g shrimps
- 4 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil for stir-frying
- Rice 250g Basmati rice
- ½ teaspoon Turmeric
- 1-2 Knorr cubes
- salt to taste
Garnish – 2 small heads of bok choi
- 1 can beansprout
- 200g carrots peeled and sliced into fine julienne
- 200g white radish peeled and sliced into fine julienne
- 4 red radishes sliced into rounds
- Coriander leaves
- Baby spinach
- Spring onions sliced
- One small red Thai chili sliced
- 300ml vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 cardamom pods
How To Prepare the Dish
The first thing you need to do is marinade the fish. I used some frozen Kingklip fillets I got from Shoprite. If you can lay your hand on barracuda white snapper or grouper they would work just fine. Marinate by mixing all the items under the fish together in a Ziploc or bowl and leave to sit in the fridge for 30 mins to 2hours. If you do this overnight, its better you place it in the freezer. For the rice, put water till it just covers the rice, place the turmeric, Knorr seasoning cube and oil. Stir well and place on a medium heat. Boil till the water starts to dry out. At that point cover with a rinsed shopping bag to keep the steam in, the steam would finish the cooking and keep the heat locked in.
Heat the oil in a pot and place all the ingredients for the sauce except the coconut milk and shrimps. Stir-fry till the bottom starts to catch, then add the water and boil for about 20 Minutes or till it has reduced by almost half. At this point pout the mixture into a blender and pulse for about 50 Seconds and pass through a fine sieve. This is to extract maximum flavour from the lemongrass and other ingredients. With the extracted liquid, place it to boil and reduce slightly. Throw in the shrimp and add half the of the coconut milk to the sauce boil till it thickens slightly then finish with the rest and cook till you get your desired thickness. Check for seasoning at this point. Add some more fish sauce, light soy or plain salt. However, I recommend fish sauce.
Cooking the Fish
Take the fish out from the fridge or freezer and allow to come to somewhat room temperature or well defrosted. Shake off the excess marinade. In a hot pan, place the butter till it starts to go nutty brown, add the rest of the oil and place the fish presentation side up whilst the fish is getting a nice sear on one side. Take spoon and baste the rest of the fish with the hot fat in the pan. Do this for 3 Minutes turn the fish and turn of the heat and let the fish finish cooking; that way, it is not overcooked.
The Bok-choi should be washed and stir fried in some oil & garlic and seasoned with salt or soy sauce.
For this salad, make the pickling liquid by boiling all the ingredients together till its looking like a clear syrup. When it’s luke-warm, toss all the vegetables through and serve straight away. If you’re serving at a later time just don’t add the dressing to it.
Place the bok-choi on top of the rice, the fish, the shrimps, the sauce the salad and voila you’re ready to eat! The dish serves 3.
Like I always say, recipes are guidelines not rules!!! Please explore and try different things using this as springboard. Lemongrass grows wildly everywhere. Although in some markets its sold, but hey I plucked mine from the flower pots in the house. Yes I planted some. I did not use the long leaves however they are good for making good “agbo” and herbal tea in general. I would like to thank and appreciate Obi Somto for the stunning pictures. Forgive the sloppy rice once again. If you try this dish you could send your picture to editorial (at) bellaniaja.com You never know, you might just win a prize.
Chef Fregz loves to cook! He is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris Culinary Arts School in France and hosts monthly “Chef Fregz Specials” where he whips up a yummy menu with a different theme each time then everyone enjoys a taste.
He also caters special events and private dinners. To find out more, visit http://theskinnychefthatcould.wordpress.com/