It seems unfair to the laws of the universe that this is so healthy, yummy, and easy at the same time.
But the universe made Hot Cheetos, and this is my revenge.
This is a Chinese style of cooking tilapia, and my family would always cook the fish in this way before we discovered the delicious oily crispness of pan-seared tilapia. We don’t make this much these days, but that’s not my choice.
I think that in the hot summer months, pan-searing in hot oil is just too hot. The bold sizzle of raw meat hitting the pan sounds muffled in the fuzzy haze of the heat. The oily layer on the tilapia fillet reflects the bright white sun outside and it’s nauseating.
Then you bite in and the fillet is hot. Everything is hot. A drop of sweat rolls down your back. You stare down the tilapia, which stares back at you on a nauseatingly white plate.
You look to your glass of water, only to realize the ice cubes have melted. A little bubble rises to the surface of the water. Then another. And another. Your water begins to boil.
The oven beeps three times, having reached its destination of 475°F. You don’t remember turning it on, but the oven door is now open. Two drops of sweat roll down your forehead. Three. Four.
Then you realize that beeping wasn’t your oven.
It was your air conditioning’s thermometer.
Flaky Steamed Tilapia
Notes: The great thing about this dish is that it’s totally suited for summer. It’s very light. I love eating it cold and straight out of the fridge on a summer day.
Taste & Texture: I’m sure there are many variations on this dish, but the ingredients I use contribute just a hint of flavor on the fish. It’s very slightly savory, a tiny bit garlicky, and just a smidge salty. You can always add more salt & soy sauce for a stronger flavor. It also has a very delicate flaky texture to it, slightly chewy and very soft.
- 4 tilapia fillets. More or less; you know I don’t care about exact measurements.
- 1/8 cup garlic, chopped. Or hvidløg, if you’re Danish.
- 1/8 cup ginger, chopped. Eat it straight. It’s good for you.
- 1/8 cup soy sauce. We always run out of this. #asianproblems
- 1/8 cup sherry or cooking wine. The cashiers don’t trust me when I say I’m just going to use it to cook.
1. Put tilapia on plate. Feel free to crowd them. Then take a knife and stab them at random places so the soy sauce and cooking wine can seep in and give some flavor. Try for 10 stabs per fillet, focusing on the thicker parts.
2. Put everything else on plate. Self-explanatory.
3. Steam for 15 minutes. The beauty of steaming is that you can’t really overcook it. Just make sure there’s a small stream of steam coming from the pot at all times; this means the water temperature is just right.
The Extra Mile:
- Garnish! Spring onions are my favorite, but we ran out of those. So I used basil instead. Sorry.
- Drizzle with soy sauce. We also ran out of soy sauce. Gee thanks for reminding me of my misery.
- Chill in fridge. Tilapia, like other meats, naturally contains gelatin. So, the liquid on the plate (under the tilapia) will congeal into this savory soy-sauce jelly, which tastes better than it sounds. When you put the jelly on warm rice, it’ll melt into a nice little puddle of soup.
I just can’t believe we’re out of soy sauce.
How am I going to survive.