Monday, August 25, 2008


I've been flicking through the small number of Asian cookbooks that I have and there don't seem to be many desserts whether traditional or otherwise. Being brought up with Western culture it seems incredibly strange! It's understandable though. When my mother was growing up in China, meat was considered such a delicacy that people who were sick from malnourishment would resort to eating human placentas. Peasants would cook up a stray dog found wandering the streets. Eggs could only be bought once a year if lucky and plain rice was what millions of people depended upon to keep their families alive during the famine that ravaged the country.

I have distant cousins, aunts and uncles living in Northern China, their lives still irreparably damaged by the destruction caused by the cultural revolution. Although we've never met, and despite my complete ineptitude with the language, I feel as though food could be a point by which we could all connect. Or perhaps not. The lack of desserts really irks me. I think that my appreciation of food really lies in the sweets department which is a little wanting in my current situation. I found myself making jar after jar of marmalade on my day off last week which really is quite a bizarre occurrence.

I think that from tomorrow, I'll start and I mean really start trying to teach myself all about cakes, pastries and whatnot. I'm not really too sure exactly how much I'll learn about desserts where I'm at now professionally. Anyway, for the moment, here is a recipe for steamed snapper - an adaptation from 'Kylie Kwong: recipes and stories'

Steamed Snapper
"essence: The naturally sweet. delicate, moist flesh of the snapper combines with the aromatic ingredients to create a beautifully balanced, subtle, clean and salty flavour. This dish is an excellent example of the way steaming preserves purity of flavour and texture."
750 g whole snapper
2 leaves wong bok (Chinese cabbage)
1/2 recipe fish sauce
2 knobs ginger, peeled & julienne
1/4 C. shao xing wine
pinch castor sugar
pinch ground white pepper
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp tamari (gluten-free soy)
1/4 C. shallot julienne
1/4 C. peanut oil
1/2 C. coriander leaves
Hold snapper firmly by the tail and with a knife, scrape towards the head to remove any scales.
Make 5 or 6 diagonal cuts parallel to the head approx. 1 1/2 cm apart, through to the bone. Repeat on the other side.
Bring a large steamer pot of water to the boil.
Place snapper on a plate, cover the body with ginger and slosh over the shao xing.
Place inside the steamer and replace the lid.
Steam for approximately 10-12 minutes or until cooked (flesh will be exposed and white through to the bone).
Quickly blanch cabbage leaves, drain and chop into rough squares.
Arrange cabbage squares on a large flat plate or bowl.
Carefully lift up the snapper and place over the cabbage.
Sprinkle over the sugar, pepper, sesame oil and tamari.
Bring fish sauce to the boil and pour over.
Place shallot julienne over the body.
Bring peanut oil to smoking point and pour over the fish to soften shallots.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately.


  1. Great looking dish, Cathy! The fish isn't bad either ;P

    I love that you say your appreciation of food lies in the sweets department.. hehe.. I can truly relate to that!


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