Vietnamese Fried Fish for Two
Adapted from Rick Stein's Far Eastern Odyssey
2 tablespoons of tamarind pulp, soaked in 1/4 cup of hot water for about 15 minutes
2-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large lemongrass stalks, stripped of the tough outer leaves and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound monkfish or john dory, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/3 cup rice flour
4 scallions, cleaned and sliced lengthwise into thin ribbons
1 packet dried rice vermicelli, cooked, shocked in cold water and drained
1/4 cup toasted peanuts, chopped
Handful of lettuce leaves, ripped into small pieces, washed and dried
Several sprigs of mint, cilantro and Thai basil, washed and dried
Half a lime, quartered
Vietnamese dipping sauce (the recipe is below)
1. Squeeze the tamarind pulp with your fingers, helping the meat dissolve in the water. Strain out the pulp and retain 3 tablespoons of the liquid.
2. Place the tamarind liquid with the next four ingredients in a small food processor with a tablespoon of water, and blend. Place the fish in a shallow dish and cover with the tamarind/turmeric/lemongrass slurry, turning the pieces so they're covered on all sides. Put in the fridge for at least an hour.
3. Whisk together rice flour and turmeric powder in a dish. Toss the fish cubes into the flour so they are coated on all sides.
4. Using a frying pan that's large enough to accommodate all the fish cubes without crowding, pour the vegetable oil so it's about an inch deep, then heat over a high flame. Test one cube to see if it's hot enough; if it sizzles in a strong, satisfying kind of way, it's ready. Fry the cubes until they're toasty on all sides and cooked through, about four minutes. Halfway through, add the scallions and allow them to wilt and get crispy here and there. Use a slotted spoon to take everything out. Drain on paper towels.
5. Divide the noodles onto two plates, then place half the fish and scallions on top of each mound. Serve with all the accompaniments in their own bowls, and have at!
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Minced ginger and garlic to taste; I used about a teaspoon each
One hot Thai pepper, sliced thinly
1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and serve with the other accompaniments.
In other news, it's freezing cold out after 60 degree days and someone has dressed the trees on 13th Street in little knitted sweaters. I love them. But will they get saggy when it rains tomorrow? Maybe the tree clothier has little tree rain slickers at the ready. We shall see.