Whole fish with partially broken tail (see point 4 below)
Just finished a design brief for school which included drawing, in near-microscopic detail, a whole lot of fishes. I see scales and gills and fins everywhere now.
On the bright side, I can properly tell a plaice from a dover sole from a lemon sole and flounders. They are all British flatfishes, with both eyes on one side which makes them look quite odd, and eating-wise, they all have a similar delicate flaky texture. Whether they are more oval or diamond-shaped, or whether they have spots etc help tell them apart, though frankly, the price is the best way to tell them apart. This is why I say, skip the plaice and dover soles, and go for the lemon soles (actually not a sole but a winter flounder) and flounders! A flounder is not only a cheaper option, but also a more sustainable option, and frankly, pretty similar taste and texture-wise. At £5/kg, this freshly caught flounder that I got from Pimlico farmers' market was a bargain!
I steamed the whole fish Cantonese-style, i.e. with hot oil poured over after the fish is steamed; you'll get what I mean by sizzling when you watch the video! (Er it's only 2 seconds but I couldn't resist recording the sound hah.) This step is not just for fun, it's what elevates the dish!
Cantonese-Style Steamed Whole Flounder
serves 2 as a side
1 whole flounder, about 400g
1 tsp unrefined sea salt
1" ginger, finely sliced
1 stalks spring onion, finely shredded
(opt) 1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
3 tbsp good soy sauce (traditionally brewed and fermented)
1 tbsp mix of toasted sesame oil + 1 tbsp groundnut oil
handful of chopped coriander leaves
1. Wash fish and pat dry, then rub evenly with salt and rice wine. Place fish over two chopsticks set over a plate. This will make for more even cooking.
2. Set up a steamer by putting a rack into a wok/pot over boiling water, and set the plate of fish on the rack (make sure it doesn't touch the water). Steam over high heat until just cooked, about 12 min for mine.
3. Carefully transfer the cooked fish to a new plate. You don't want the old plate and the fishy cooking liquid.
4. Scatter the spring onions, chilli and ginger over, then drizzle over the soy sauce.
5. Heat the oil in a pan until smoking, then immediately pour over the fish. Garnish with coriander, and serve straight away with rice.
The fine, flaky flesh of the flounder is really suited to this delicate steaming method. Soy sauce, ginger, spring onions, are all very simple chinese-cooking essentials, but they all come together brilliantly with the fish, and the final step of sizzling hot sesame oil just adds the final flourish. Keeping the fish on the bone also helps to keep it extra moist and tender, much like how meat kept on the bone is juicier. I know it freaks some people out, but growing up in a Chinese household, a whole steamed fish makes quite a common appearance on the dinner table. I tend to relish seeing the head and tail with my fish.