During traditional non vegetarian or deities praying, one would required some meat and seafood to make it into 3 sheng or 5 sheng (三牲 ， 五牲）, fish is usually required to represent one of the offering items. In general, the fish for praying will not be cooked as a dish, it is usually a whole fish, steamed until cooked with no gravy etc. This is because it will turn bad easily if the fish is too wet. This is one type of fishes usually used for praying. It was steamed with scales on and it can become dry very easily. The whole fish would be placed in the offering table together with steamed crabs, pork belly, chicken etc..
This post is nothing concern with religious beliefs. It is about the humble preparation of this fish that I cooked rather commonly at home. I liked to cook this fish because I like the meat texture and the fact that it can be served very neatly on the table. The meat is not overly soft and smooth like those expensive fishes. It is slightly tougher, the scale can be just scrapped away cleanly and kids can eat the meat with the dips prepared.
It is not I am lazy that I prepared my fish in this way. It is a traditional way of serving and it still appeared in some older Teochew restaurants. It is a one step recipe and the beauty of this recipe is its simplicity . Elder Teochew will serve this fish with fermented soya beans or tau cheo. But, the dip that I am sharing here is the localized version of adding chilli and vinegar.
This dish is usually served chilled in the restaurant and Hong Kong foodies named it “冻乌头“。 If you are concerned about the fish being chilled, you can just served it hot out of the steamer. The only difference is the collagen present in the scales of the fish may make it more difficult to scrap off the scales. Who really cares if you are eating at home.
“The mullets or grey mullets are a family (Mugilidae) and order of ray-finned fish found worldwide in coastal temperate and tropical waters, and in some species in fresh water. Mullets have served as an important source of food in Mediterranean Europe since Roman times. The family includes about 80 (at least 73) species in 17 genera, although half of the species are in just two genera (Liza and Mugil). Mullets are distinguished by the presence of two separate dorsal fins, small triangular mouths, and the absence of alateral line organ. They feed on detritus, and most species have unusually muscular stomachs and a complex pharynx to help in digestion “（Source： https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mullet_(fish)）
WHAT IS REQUIRED
Servings: 3-4 adult servings
- 1 medium size mullet with scale
- 1 tablespoon of tau cheo or fermented soya beans
- 1 red chilli, minced
- 2 cloves of garlics, minced
- 3 tablespoon of white vinegar or 5 calamansi lime
STEPS OF PREPARATION
- Wash the mullet and cleaned off all the intestines etc. Lightly greased the steaming tray to prevent sticking. Put the mullet in the steaming tray and steamed at high heat for about 15-20 minutes depending on size. Cooled completely and wrapped with a clingy wrap and keep in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
- For the dips, put all the ingredients and stir until well mixed. Adjust with salt or sugar if it does not suit your taste bud. If you prefer, you can add one tablespoon of light or dark soya sauce but be wary that fermented soya beans is very salty.
- For serving, use a knife to cut an opening at the side of fish. Insert a spoon into the opening and scratch out the scales. Best served chilled with dips prepared above. If preferred, it can be served hot out of the steamer but it is more difficult to take out the scales.
I blogged this recipe out of respect of our traditional recipes. Not many people will capture this type of recipe as it is overly traditional, simple and humble. There is nothing to shout about the recipe and to me, the dip is very important to the dish. Chilled or not chill is up to individual. The fish is economical but pack with proteins. It has no small bones that suits elder and younger members in the family.
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