If you were to pick just one type of cuisine to eat for rest of your life, what would it be? I think most Americans would pick Italian. For me, I’d go with Vietnamese. I find it so incredibly fresh, light & flavorful that I could eat it almost every single day. I was first introduced to its amazing taste by my Vietnamese house mates, Lien, Tihn & Pheung, at UC Berkeley. Now I am so totally hooked that I often get cravings for it.
This morning I went to a local market and picked up a fresh whole 3 lb Pollock fish with clear eyes, firm texture and bright red gills. In Korea, I grew up eating a lot of Pollock, a great inexpensive alternative to the over-fished cod, but I don’t remember eating it fresh very often. It was almost always dried and then used as a key ingredient for a hangover soup called “book-a-guk”. I’m not sure why I was served a hang-over soup when I was just a kid. Perhaps my Mom thought nutrients of the Pollock, which were believed to “wake up” drunk people (omegas?), would keep my mental sharpness strong. Since I feel “awake” now, instead of making the Korean “hang-over” soup, I’m broiling the Pollock with a delicious Vietnamese ginger sauce to make the freshness shine without a mask.
First, I debone the fresh whole Pollock, fillet it, and rub it with the juice from 2 limes, some sea salt and 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill. Next, I make the marinade by mixing ½ cup ginger liqueur, 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1.5 Tablespoon fish sauce, 1 green chili (thinly sliced), 2 green onions (chopped), 2 stalks lemongrass (thinly sliced) and a couple of shiitake mushrooms (sliced) in a bowl. Then, I add all the pieces of the Pollock to the sauce and marinade for 10 minutes at room temperature. Separately, I preheat the oven to broil and cook the fish for 24 minutes (i.e. 8 minutes/lb x 3 lbs fish = 24 minutes). Lastly, I pour the ginger sauce over the fish and garnish it with some green onions and fresh ginger before serving.
This delicious Pollock is earthy yet vibrant. The warm, spicy ginger flavor is perfectly harmonized by the sour lime juice. Aromatic fresh dill and lemongrass scent also makes the Pollock absolutely mouth-watery. The Pollock, “cod-family” white fish, soaks in all colorful flavors from the ginger sauce and simply melts away in the mouth. This dish make me “eat like a fish”. It tastes so good that I can’t help devouring it, like a fish eating other fish, continually stuffing it into a big, open mouth. Next time when you are in a grocery store, definitely give the Pollock a try. They taste pretty similar to cod, and it is quite inexpensive. Also, if you see a whole fish with clear eyes, bright red gills and tight firm skin, try picking it up, instead of buying pre-cut fillets. It’s usually fresher than filleted fish, and if you’re too timid to do it yourself, the store will clean, debone, and fillet it for you at minimal cost. Lastly, in case you haven’t tasted fish eyes, give them a try. It tastes like savory calcium with very interesting texture. My brother, sister and I used to fight for fish eyes when we were growing up. How we wished fish would have three eyes, one for each one of us. Enjoy the discovery of Vietnamese-style Pollock deliciously cooked with the ginger sauce! Happy cooking!