This week’s challenge was a little different to most of our others. It’s not trying something that we think sounds weird or will taste bad. It’s just something that we’ve never done before, but is very common here. Which is really the point of this series. So this one will probably sound pretty easy to many of you.
The challenge was to buy and cook a whole fish.
Both of us have led rather sheltered lives, and we’ve always had our fish filleted. Sometimes by The Engineer’s Dad, who’s pretty nifty with a filleting knife. More often than not by someone at the supermarket/fish shop before we even see it. But here, that’s not really an option. You can buy it whole, or not at all.
You may not know this, but The Engineer used to work at the fish counter at Pak’n’Save. I always thought this would mean he knew his way around a fish, but apparently not. So neither of us had any clue what was involved in buying and cooking a whole fish. (I’m kinda embarrassed to admit that actually…)
We tackled the challenge on Saturday morning. We were wandering back from a lazy breakfast at Marilyn’s Cafe, and our route took us right past the market. The stalls outside were only just getting going, but we knew that there should be some fish stalls open inside.
‘Should we head in now and see what they’ve got?’ I asked The Engineer, and we made a slight detour.
There were only a few stalls open in the big blue building, so we wandered around fairly quickly. When I saw the crabs crawling around in their cages, I was tempted to change the challenge, but we saved that one for later, and found a stall selling some nice looking fish, which the young man running the stall told us were Snapper. We were not completely convinced, but it looked nice and fresh so we picked one out anyway.
‘I clean?’ we were relieved to hear, and nodded. One less challenge for us!
A couple of minutes later, we were $5 poorer, and had our wee fish in a plastic bag.
On the way out, we stopped at some vegetable stalls, to grab lemons, limes, and coriander for the fish, and at the mini mart for some aluminium foil. We had big plans for this bad boy.
And that was the hard part of the challenge over. Not very hard after all. Now we just had the fun part!
That evening, we grabbed our supplies, and got working.
First up, we gave it another quick clean, patted it dry, and laid it out on our foil.
We rubbed it with ghee, stuffed it with coriander, piled it up with lemon and lime slices, and added a little soy sauce. It looked amazing.
We popped it in the oven, and waited. Forty minutes later, we pulled out the parcel, and opened it to release the delicious tangy steam, and reveal the perfectly cooked fish.
Serving it was another slight challenge. My fish anatomy is terrible (their spine runs down the middle?), but a quick google search soon revealed a nice easy method. We only missed a few little bones, which I think is pretty good for a first attempt.
And then? All that was left to do was eat! We served our soy/lime/coriander fish with rice, and pak chye. As you can tell, I was pretty happy with it. And that was before I ate it. The smile only grew later on.
The lesson that this challenge taught us is that things that sometimes seem a bit scary are usually really not. I don’t quite know what had been stopping us from buying whole fish (well, for the last few weeks it was that it was on our challenge list, but not yet at the top, but before that it was just a weird worry of ours). And I regret not doing it earlier! We have this great resource JUST down the street from our house, and we could have been making the most of it. At least we know now. And on those days when we haven’t got anything out for dinner, we’ve got a quick and easy solution!
Next time we might even extend ourselves and attempt to fillet one. I suspect that could be messy though! Maybe best to leave that until we have our resident expert filleter here in June.