Thursday, September 10, 2015

Steamed Catfish with Black Bean Sauce and Tofu - Recipe

I didn't grow up eating catfish at home.  My mom would steam whole fish from the Chinese supermarket, but catfish was for some reason not one of the species that she regularly selected for consumption.  When Wes and I started cooking together very early on in our relationship, this was one of the first things that we made.  Wes had given me the key to his place already, so it had become quite the habit to scoot over to his apartment after work with my clunky old Acer laptop, set up camp at his dining table, and await his return.  One night, he showed up with a whole catfish, slimy and fresh.  His explanation: One-fifty a pound.

Baffled, I examined the head with those telltale whiskers, prodded the freshly-hacked sections of its body, and pondered its lack of scales.  This didn't look like the whole, flat sea bass that I was used to.  But I was excited.  We didn't really know what we were doing, but eventually we created a bed of sorts in Wes's steaming pan using whatever was in the refrigerator, stuck the fish on top, drizzled some sauce, added the usual aromatics, and popped it into his wok to steam.  It turned out so well that we have been making it over and over... so long as catfish is on sale!  

Steamed Catfish with Black Bean Sauce and Tofu

  • 1 whole catfish - cleaned and steaked
  • 1 container soft tofu
  • 3 stalks of scallion - cut into 3 inch lengths, with a small amount chopped finely for garnish
  • 2" piece of ginger - sliced thin
  • Shiitake mushrooms - sliced
  • Bean sprouts
  • Lee Kum Kee black bean garlic sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Rice wine
  1. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch slices and lay them on the bottom of a shallow pan.
  2. Sprinkle the sliced mushrooms and bean sprouts around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle some salt over this.
  3. Place the fish steaks in the center, on top of the tofu.
  4. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of rice wine with 2-4 tablespoons of the black bean garlic sauce (up to you how strong you like the flavor).
  5. Spoon the mixture over the fish.
  6. Drizzle sesame oil to taste, top with ginger and scallion lengths.
  7. To steam, pour about 2" of water into a large pot or wok, cover and boil.  When it's boiling, uncover and place the fish pan inside, propped up with a steamer rack.
  8. Cover and steam the fish on medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the width of the catfish and thickness of the steaks.
  9. Remove from steamer pot, garnish with the extra scallion, and serve with rice.

The catfish was love at first bite.  It is soft, flaky, and has an abundance of gelatinous nooks and crannies.  Steaks are definitely superior to filets, to maximize all of the textural elements.

Suggestion: Stir-fry some gai choy on the side - one of our favorite vegetables.  It's the perfect mixture of crunchy, leafy, sweet, and bitter.
Wes and all his lighting hacks... It was pitch black outside already, but he made it look like we cooked in the daytime, sort of.

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