THAI COCONUT FISH
Living in Sydney, Australia created an opportunity to explore Asian-fusion in all its glory. Geographic proximity and a large population of immigrants from China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia afford a unique opportunity to combine Asian ingredients and European techniques. Dining out at The Bather's Pavilion on Balmoral Beach in one of Sydney's outer suburbs, this signature dish teases the olfactory senses with subtle, yet dramatic, fresh ingredients. Learning to distinguish between the citrusy clean smell of kaffir lime and the less sour, sweeter, milder lemongrass is a wonderful gastronomic exercise. This seaside meal consisting of bathing fish in coconut milk with lemon and lime undertones is a Down Under recipe worthy of adding to a culinary arsenal. Seemingly exotic, this is a lovely no fuss healthy recipe that pleases nearly every palate and looks just as beautiful as it tastes.
Nota bene: Whole Foods or Asian food markets generally sell stalks of lemongrass and fresh kaffir lime leaves. If kaffir lime leaves unavailable, substitute 2 long wide strips of lime peel and 1 long wide strip of lemon peel cut with a vegetable peeler (remove before plating). Use only unsweetened coconut milk.
1 cup fish or chicken stock
1 1/3 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves (dried fine if fresh unavailable)
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1 small red chile, seeded and split lengthwise
4 firm white fish fillets such as red snapper, sea bass, barramundi or halibut; or 2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 cups black or purple sticky rice, or forbidden rice
1. Place stock, coconut milk, lime leaves, lemon grass, and chile in a medium-large pot over medium-high heat. Boil 10 minutes, then lower heat and bring to a simmer.
2. Add the fish and poach for 3 minutes, or until the fish starts to flake lightly when pressed with the edge of a fork (or until the shrimp turns pale pink). Remove the fish from the pan, cover, and set aside.
3. Reduce the sauce another 3 minutes over high heat until thickened slightly. Strain and stir in 1 tablespoon of the lime juice.
4. Serve in wide-rimmed bowls over black sticky rice. Pour the excess liquid evenly over the top of each bowl (or serve family style like above and pass the entire fish at the table).