It was barely a month ago when I first came upon the Chilean sea bass. And that was all that is needed to get me all so head over heels with this sea treasure. In Bellagio Hotel where we stayed throughout our trip to the Vegas, this Chilean sea bass was one of the many other upscale high quality items that they served in their dinner buffet line. I don't quite remember how exactly the fish was done then, pan-roasted maybe or plainly steamed even. But I do remember going all "ooooh and aaahhh"s with each bite I took. That naturally became the center of attention to my dinner that night. Even the Kobe beef and the Alaskan king crab seemed to come second behind this. Yea, that was how crazy I got over this lol. Unlike the many fish dishes commonly seen in a buffet line, this was nowhere close to those that tend to get overcooked in some manners. This Chilean sea bass literally melts in your mouth! But of course that has got to be attributed to the great team of chef behind its making.
Returning home, that experience had made hubby and I a better observer these days especially in the fish markets lol. Little did we know that the Chilean sea bass (not really a bass) can actually fetch a real premium price in the market, let alone in those high end restaurants where they can be found in their menus. The highest I have noted to date marks a good $37 a pound in a local market here near where we live. It is almost at the same time that I also started noticing how it has always been a debated issue if the Chilean sea bass is an endangered species. Turn out they are not. The problem with them has all along been one coming from the large, unreported catches coming from illegal fishing that makes keeping track and managing this valuable fish population difficult. But as far as the fact goes, they are not listed as an endangered species.
Steamed Chilean Sea Bass in Soy Sauce
1 1½lbs Chilean sea bass (preferably one of even thickness throughout so they cook at the same time)
salt and white pepper powder
1½ tbsps Shaoxing wine
1" ginger, cut into 4 chunks, lightly crushed
3 stalks spring onion (just the white parts), lightly crushed
10 cloves garlic, minced (not too finely)
4 tbsps cooking oil
3 stalks spring onion (the remaining green parts), sliced thinly lengthwise and soaked in iced cold water to make curls
a small handful cilantro for garnishing
3 tbsps light soy sauce
3/4 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsps water
a dash or two of white pepper powder
1. Mix the ingredients for the seasoning in a small bowl. Transfer to a small sauce pan and put on low heat. Leave heated until ready to be used later.
2. Clean the fish, making sure that the skin has been descaled properly. Run your fingers through the skin to make sure that you have got every area covered. Pat dry with paper towels and set on a plate.
3. Lightly season the fish with salt and white pepper powder.
4. In a steaming plate, arrange the ginger chunks and the spring onions (white parts) in the center. This will be the base to which the fish will be resting on later. They also make sure that the fish will not be in contact with the pool of steaming juice formed during steaming later. Meanwhile set the steamer ready with enough boiling water in it.
5. Place the fish on the steaming plate. Pour the Shaoxing wine all over the fish.
6. Carefully transfer the steaming plate onto a steaming stand in the steamer. Cover the steamer and turn the heat down to medium-high. Leave to steam undisturbed for about 10 minutes. Depending on the fish thickness and size, the steaming time will vary. You may want to consider checking it after 8 minutes of steaming. Stick in a fork or butter knife at the site with the thickest flesh. If it pierced through easily coming out clean, the fish is ready. If you can feel some hesitations poking through the fish, cover and leave the fish to steam for another minute or two.
7. While the fish gets steamed, work on the fried minced garlic. Heat the cooking oil in a small sauce pan over a medium-high heat. Once well heated, add in the minced garlic and let fry. Keep stirring
until they start browning. Once they have turned golden brown on the whole, strain through a sieve separating the fried garlic and its oil. Always make it a point to have them separated. Leaving them in the oil will continue the browning or get them burnt even. From the fried garlic oil retained, bring a tbsp of the oil to continue heating on a medium heat in the saucepan.
8. When the fish is ready, remove from heat and gently transfer the fish to a clean serving plate. If you are not comfortable with lifting the fish without breaking them, you can leave it as it is. Discard as much steaming juice as you possibly can together with the bed of spring onions and ginger.
9. Spoon in the seasoning all over and around the fish. Top the fish with the spring onion curls and cilantro.
10. Finish by gently and carefully pouring the smoking hot fried garlic oil (makes sure it is real hot!) along the length of the fish. Listen to the sizzling sound - that's they key! Serve hot.