I used to like to cook any and all types of Asian cuisine. My pantry was stocked with all sorts of bottles of fish sauce, mirin, soy sauce, kimchi, chile pastes, bags of dried mushrooms, seaweed, rice noodles… I think what happened was I got a little obsessed with seasonal food and since, well, I don’t live in Asia, there aren’t too many ingredients growing here that immediately make you think “ooh I’ll make something Korean!” But that’s kind of a shame, and I’m going to try to break out of my rut a little bit. Enter this cod dish. It’s so freaking simple, utilizes just a few ingredients, and is utterly wonderful.
Despite being overtly Asian, there’s no reason that this dish couldn’t accompany something nice and local. It would pair really nicely with roasted squash (prepared with a spicy sesame dressing?) and/or bitter greens. The greens would soak up the sauce for the fish really well. I generally hate fusion cuisine, but if you’re not making it under the pretense that it’s fusion cuisine, then I feel pretty okay about it. Just don’t start deciding to cook Chinese Five-Spice Infused Chicken Nugget Lollipops with Kelp and Panko Breadcrumb Crust. Oh god shut up.
If you can’t find cod, or there is another fish that is cheaper or you like better, then that’s fine. I got a good price on this wild caught true cod. The original recipe called for black cod, which I guess are unrelated to true cod. Oh well. The sauce will work with pretty much any sea creature. The ginger, garlic, and scallions are simmered in water to make an aromatic broth and then more ginger, garlic, and scallions are placed on top of the fish as it steams. You make the sauce for the fish with that simmered broth, chiles, cilantro, and a bit of tamari. It’s genius. I forgot to chop cilantro and add it to my sauce. I feel like I’m always forgetting cilantro. How is this possible? I LOVE IT. Bleh.
The only thing a little complicated about this recipe is how the ingredients are divided up. Just grab a few small bowls and you’ll be fine. Since you’re steaming the fish, you also need a steamer of sorts. Doesn’t matter what type you use. I just have one of those $1 metal collapsing steamers with the feet that sits in the pot. If you have a fancy bamboo basket, that’s cool too.
ginger-soy steamed cod
adapted from Bon Appétit
1 head of garlic, 3 cloves sliced, remaining head halved crosswise
6 scallions, trimmed, 2 cut into 2 inch pieces, 4 thinly sliced
1 5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces
2 tablespoons tamari
2 green Thai chiles or 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 cod fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1. Combine halved head of garlic, the 2 inch pieces of scallions, 1 tablespoon ginger, and 4 cups of water in a large pot, big enough for your steamer basket. Squeeze lemon half into water and put the lemon half in too. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Transfer 1/4 cup liquid from pot to a small bowl. Set aside – this will be used for the sauce.
3. Add 2 cups water to the pot and return to a boil.
4. While the water is returning to a boil, mix into the reserved 1/4 cup liquid, 1/4 cup of the sliced scallions, 1 tablespoon ginger, tamari, sliced chile(s), and the cilantro.
5. Line your steamer basket with parchment paper and scatter half of sliced garlic, half of remaining sliced scallions, and half of remaining ginger on top of parchment. Coat your fish fillets with oil, sprinkle with salt, and place on the parchment. Scatter remaining garlic, scallions, and ginger on top of the fish. Place the steamer in the pot, cover, and steam until fish is just cooked through, 10-15 minutes, depending on thickness of fish.
Serve the fish with a generous helping of the sauce.