Simple Eats – 鱼片米粉
鱼片米粉 Fish Slices with Thick Vermicelli in Broth, a simple dish I like to cook for myself and my family. Something hot and soupy is especially comforting for cold and raining days.
I must admit first that there is no “proper” recipe for it. Its basically a reinvention of a very popular hawker dish with bits and pieces of my own. : )
Ingredients (sufficient for 3 – 4 pax)
About 300-400g of good firm and meaty fish fillets, the most commonly used being Japanese Spanish mackerel aka 马鲛鱼. Other popular favorites include giant snakehead aka Ikan Toman and red snapper fillets, while my family favours red garoupa, which is used in today’s version!
About 1/2 kg of fish bones, preferably the bone racks from garoupa, threadfin or snapper. Buy the whole fish and ask the fishmonger to fillet it for you!
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
4 thick slices of old ginger
5-6 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a cleaver but not peeled.
800-1000 ml of water
A packet of thick rice noodles (thick rice vermicelli) aka laksa bee hoon 粗米粉
Green leafy vegetables to your liking e.g. cai xin 菜心 xiao bai cai 小白菜, shanghai green 青江菜, or even iceberg lettuce
A box of chinese tofu or silky tofu
2 eggs + 2 tablespoons of oil
A teaspoon of salt
A tablespoon of sugar
Pepper to taste
A dash of shaoxing wine or even better XO!
Chopped spring onions and deep fried shallots in moderation
– Heat up a wok and pour in oil
– Add pre-rinsed fish bones into the wok and allow them to saute. Turn over when one side begins to brown. Add sliced ginger and cloves of garlic at this moment.
– When both sides develop a nice light tan, pour in the water and cover wok with lid.
– Bring the soup to a boil and allow the soup of simmer for about 15-20 min henceforth. The longer the simmering, the more flavourful the soup would be!
– After simmering the soup over a period of time, the soup should develop a pale creamy colouration, characteristic of those sold by hawkers outside, which had been down with a splash of evaporated milk. But what we have here is all de naturale! Have a good look at the bones and they should look like the they just had the marrow sucked out of them, literally! If you leave the soup to cool slightly, a gelatinous collagen-like membrane should develop on the surface. DO NOT skim this off! This is the very essence of wholesomeness which you really want!
– Add salt to taste. Sample the soup after giving it a good stir and add sugar in progressions to balance the flaours to one’s liking, sampling in between additions.Add more water if necessary if the soup is too salty or too thick for one’s liking (Yes I know this sounds rubbishy but there are folks who like ’em to be less harsh on the tastebuds!)
– Strain the soup into a pot. DO NOT DISCARD THE BONES which have tingling bits of meat attached to them.
When the bones have cooled down sufficiently for them to be manhandled, gently peel or rub off with our fingers any fleshy remnants of fish meat on the skeletal structures. These crumbly bits can be used to make a wonderful garnish , crisp and flaky fish floss (鱼松) ! This is something my maternal grandmother used to do when there’s leftover fish from the day before e.g. Ikan Kuning. She would carefully remove the meat, taking care not to include any bones.
To make fish floss (鱼松 or 鱼酥)
– Add 2 tablespoons of oil into a wok
– When the oil is warmed slightly, throw in the bits of fish and begin to stir the mixture continuously in a slow manner. The purpose of doing this is not only to ensure even cooking but also to prevent the splattering of oil from release of water vapour or air bubbles from scorching ourselves. One would notice that the surface of the oil begins to froth up quite a bit preventing one of monitoring the progress of the fish bits underneath. Fear not! Just continue stirring and after a while, the froth would subside considerably, signalling that most of the water vapour had escaped. The bits of fish meat should now be a light golden brown and feel dry and crisp when being pressed down by a spatula.
– Pour the oily mixture through a metal sieve and drain the fish floss thoroughly to remove a possible traces of oil. This is now ready for use! I use it to garnish the dish and add textures to the soup. My grandmother used to feed us this with porridge for a simple meat.
Stringy and crispy egg floss (蛋酥) can be prepared the same way except to replace the meat with 2 beaten eggs! Do not merely fry the egg. Ensure they become golden brown stringy crisps before removing them from the oil.
To assemble, add the thick rice noodles aka laksa beehoon into the pot of fish stock over a lighted stove, followed by slices of fresh fish, green leafy vegetables and cubes of chinese tofu. All the ingredients are either pre-cooked (bee hoon and tofu) or require very short cooking time (fish and vegetables).
When the fish is just cooked, add a splash of chinese Shaoxing Wine, XO or cooking sherry and give the ingredients a gentle but quick stir before turning off the flame. If you feel really insecure about the presentation, a dash of evaporated milk can also be added.
Transfer the contents into a large bowl and garnish generously with chopped spring onions, deep fried shallots, and more importantly, fish floss and egg floss. Voila! Comfort food for a grey weathered day. : )