Saturday, July 24, 2010

The beginner cook's guide to: Sweet and sour sliced fish

I've never really bothered learning how to cook. I mean, why should I when both my aunt and my mommy are really good cooks and I know I can get good food wherever I'm at. But
with my aunt recovering from her eye surgery, I am by default the cook at home.

The first time I was given free rein of the kitchen was when my aunt was admitted to the hospital earlier this year. At that time, I had to put my mommy on speaker phone to give me step by step instructions on what and how to cook. This time round, since I remembered the basics, I was a bit braver about experimenting. Most importantly, nobody's been down with food poisoning yet, and I think it's turned out pretty well in fact =P

I have no problems cooking chicken. They are pretty easy to handle. However, fish is a bit more tricky, in my opinion. And so, I've been saying that I'll stay away from cooking fish. Thanks to easy to handle boneless fish fillet available (they usually come in like packs of three...) and my family's need to eat something besides more chicken, i've decided to be brave and experiment by trying to make fried fish with sweet and sour sauce.

Since, I'm bored, Nurul reminded me to blog and I'm just looking for more excuses to play with my new camera (the Olympus Pen EPL-1), here's an easy recipe for sweet and sour sauce (can be used with fish/chicken/shrimp) and some pictures!

Sweet and sour sliced fish

Sliced fish:
6 pieces of boneless fish fillet, cut into small pieces.
Corn flour
egg
a little bit of minced/blended garlic

Sweet and sour sauce:
4 tbs blended onion
2 tbs blended garlic
1 1/2 tbs blended chilli (if you want it to be a little bit spicy)
6 tbs tomato sauce/ketchup (estimated. I put in 4 tbs initially but the taste wasn't enough so i just randomly threw in more. LOL, told you I was experimenting)
3 tbs chilli sauce
2 1/2 to 3 cups of water
1 1/2 tbs corn flour dissolved in water (most recipes online said that we should use corn starch. since we didn't have any at home, I improvised i.e. said a little prayer and hoped that it will work!)
various veges that you want to put inside ie bell peppers, carrots. I guess you can try experimenting with cauliflowers/broccoli also. I don't suggest putting in leafy vege though.
salt and sugar to taste

1. First step is to fry the fish. The batter is simple: mixed in the little bit of blended garlic into the beaten egg, soak the fish in the egg&garlic mixture, dunk it into the corn flour and fry! You can deep fry or shallow fry it. OR you can even try baking it in a toaster oven (been asking the family to get one for a while now. Hopefully, soon!)

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The egg and cornflour needed to make the fish batter

Once this is done, you can proceed to make the sauce.

2. Two sets of stuff that you need to mix. The blended onion, garlic and chilli go into one bowl while you mix the chilli sauce, tomato sauce and water in another bowl.

3. Heat up the wok/pot that you're cooking your dish in. Once the wok/pot is heated, add in just enough oil to coat the base and put in the onion, garlic and chilli mix. Saute it until the oik separates. (The oil has risen above the rest of the mixture)

4. Put in the vege that you have. In my case I just used red and green bell peppers. However, if you're gonna use hard veges such as carrots or even cauliflowers and broccoli, you boil and soften them a bit first. Coz they're not gonna have much time to soften up in your sauce.

5. Add in the chilli sauce/tomato ketchup/water mixture. At this point, your sauce will look super watery and you (i.e. me) starts to panic a bit as sweet and sour sauce is usually thicker. Not to worry, look at step six.

6. Once the sauce in the pot has boiled, add in the corn flour/corn starch dissolved in water mixture. Make sure that it has really dissolved in the water so as to ensure minimal clumping in the sauce itself. Continue stirring the sauce in the pot and you will gradually see it thicken. (Yay, cease panicking)

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See? It clumps! DISSOLVE it properly. It'll look kinda ugly if lumps like that is seen in the sauce.

7. here's the fun part: Taste testing!! taste the sauce to see if there's enough sweet and sour. If there's not enough sweet, you can put in a bit more chilli sauce or a flat tbs of sugar. If there's not enough sour, add in a bit more tomato sauce. And just to make the flavour a little bit stronger, add in salt. How much you put in depends on your own taste buds! Start with half tsp then bit by bit more until you're satisfied.

8. Finally, dump the fried fish into the pot/wok, cover and let it boil for a while more; to give the fish the chance to soak in the sauce.

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This is enough to feed a family of five for lunch and dinner. Yay!

There you have it, this beginner cook's attempt at sweet and sour fish. I thought it was a very successful experiment. Haha. Some points to note though:

1. Frying the fish TOOK a damn long time. It is the easiest step but also the most time-consuming. I'm not really sure how I can multi-task though. I guess if you're baking the fish you might be able to multi-task (since you don't really have to attend to the fish--except for having to turn it over once--you can just leave it to bake.)

2. Corn starch vs corn flour. Pls ask mommy what's the difference coz I have no idea. Let me know. Maybe using the starch won't lead to clumping of the flour in the sauce?

3. Speaking of clumping: Really make sure your flour is properly dissolved. It doesn't really look very nice to have all the clumps there. And I was so worried that it might poison pple or sth. Hahaha. In the end though, it just looked like leftover bits of fish batter; so maybe there really is no need to worry?

4. Honestly, the sauce didn't really need the additional dash of salt since it's main ingredients--the chilli and tomato sauce mixture--is already strongly flavoured. I just like that it made the taste stronger. So if you want to be really healthy and avoid the salt, you can. Just give it a taste test and decide on your own.

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Since my aunt needs to watch what she eats, here's some I set aside for my aunt before adding in the salt and sugar. Yay bell peppers!

5. This dish is really really dry though. So, if you like to eat your rice with a bit more soupy/gravy-ish stuff, I suggest you make a separate soup to eat with the dish. haha. The point of sweet and sour sauce is not to be soupy. It's sauce-y. Haha.

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My really, really dry first meal of the day. You know that hiccup-y feeling you get when you eat something that's too dry? Happened. On a separate note, this was taken using the pop art effect on the camera.

Anyways, I'm kinda enjoying the free rein over the kitchen. It's giving me the chance to play around and experiment with food. Like the other day I tried making tamagoyaki with the help of Maki from Just Bento (same recipe, without the mirin). A little bit fail; just couldn't get it to fold nicely. Haha. I did have a bit more success with the one-egg tamagoyaki method though. I'm dying to try out some of her other stuff, such as the tofu meatballs.

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Using my favourite art effect, pinhole

I'll be cooking more stuff over the next few weeks so I should probably post a few more cooking related posts too! Look out for it! And let me know if you have some easy to handle recipes for me to cook at home =D There's a tag board if you scroll down the other box.

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