Well point of fact - we didn’t. Or rather we did but it was painful. It all started close to 20 years ago (on a dark and stormy night, walking 7 miles up hill both ways in the snow….) You see we had a group of Malaysian folks for three days. They wanted very much to have a fresh caught rockfish prepared in their traditional way. There was somewhat of a language barrier though to put it mildly.
So on day 1 Jarrah, our intrepid chef (yes folks, before Blondy or Breanna there were real chefs), followed exactly what he heard the guests request. This was: steam the rockfish, pour hot oil over it, top with grated ginger, green onion and serve. And so he did. I cannot recollect how he steamed it but apparently there was a problem. You see there were scales on the fish and they were blasted all over the meat. I think possibly there was another issue (hint: the toppings) which we will cover later of course, but Jarrah heard them about the scales. And so he endeavoured on day 2 to re-attempt the process. The penultimate evening was about begin. Rather than skin the fish, which was probably what the folks wanted but again, the language barrier was significant, Jarrah scaled the fish, steamed it skin side down, covered with boiling oil when ready, and then topped with soy sauce, ginger and green onion.
This time it wasn’t scaley thank goodness. (Is scaley a word? Spellcheck doesn’t think so). The problem was that, before the hot oil, you soak the meat in soy sauce, top with grated ginger and green onion, then pour hot oil over the whole mess thereby cooking the ginger, green onion and saltiness of the soy into the meat. Poor Jarrah. He was a master of his trade and he was feeling a little peaked. Annoyed then. Frustrated. Challenged. But there was one more evening and the guests were determined, as was Jarrah. So the ultimate evening arrived. In a fit of crazy creativity Jarrah skinned the fish - probably sick of attempting to remove scales that were superglued onto the body. Gotta say skinning the fish is a lot faster than scaling… He lovingly prepared the fish sides in his steaming contraption (really don’t remember what that was) prepared his hot oil to sizzling smoking perfection, soaked the steamed flesh in a good bath of soy sauce topped the fish with copious amounts of green onion and ginger, and blasted the flavours into the meat with lots of hot oil. Served and voila. The guests were enamoured - enraptured - totally blown away. Either their expectations were so low that anything would have been acceptable on their last night or they recognized the Herculean task they had given poor Jarrah, with the total lack of language in common and of course no internet to google up the answers…. And that is, in a nutshell, how we came to have our recipe.
To tell the truth I do not remember the quantities of green onion, ginger or soy that Jarrah initially used but I do know how much we now use and we have moved to a more Quatsino version of this recipe in the process. This is known as well because we have a lovely guest named Don whose family owned and operated for many years, a Chinese Restaurant. He was quite familiar with the concept of our recipe but Don was mortified to see how much ginger, green onion, soy sauce and oil we slather on our fish flesh. Apparently to really taste the fish you need hardly any of that stuff - just a hint. However, we North American folk have “climatized” the intention to suit our own need for flavour and we continue in this way to this day excessively coating our fish with these items.
We have attempted this recipe with halibut, ling cod and rock fish over the years and it works with everything. Haven’t tried it with tuna or salmon yet folks...anyone out there game? Let us know.