I have been dying to roast a whole fish for months, but like so many things I think about doing, I haven't gotten to it...until yesterday when it came time to find a recipe to represent the beautiful North Pacific island nation of Palau. While searching for a recipe, I discovered that Palauan cuisine is heavily influenced by Korean traditions, which thrilled me to no end. I knew I wanted to cook something involving fish, and by luck of the click, landed on this excellent recipe for Korean Roasted Fish (which I have slightly adapted) from Serious Eats. Ordinarily, I scroll through lots of different recipes before deciding on one - not so this time, oh no. No sooner had I printed out the recipe than I found myself at the Framingham Whole Foods seafood counter, being waited on by an adorable (yeah, he was like, 18, but still...) and helpful fishmonger who scaled and gutted a lovely 2 lb. mackerel for tonight's Palauan meal. Mrs. Robinson sincerely thanks you for the eye candy -- and the fish.
Cuisine in Palau is influenced by Korean, Chinese and Filipino traditions. Staple foods include, but are not limited to: cassava, taro, yam, potatoes, fish and pork. Because the island's population is relatively small and the tourism trade so active, most restaurants serve Asian-influenced food.
Korean Roast Fish (recipe adapted from Serious Eats)
2 pounds fish (mackerel or trout), scaled and gutted
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. chili paste
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 scallions, chopped
Preheat oven to 375. Rinse fish under cold water, and then dry with some paper towels.
Sprinkle a bit of canola oil on a baking sheet, and set the fish on top. Make four diagonal slashes on each side of the fish. Sprinkle the salt on the fish. Place baking sheet in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients. Add 1/2 the scallions to the mixture and reserve the rest for garnish.
Remove the baking sheet with the fish and turn the oven to 425 F. Brush the sauce on to both sides of the fish.
Return the fish to the oven, and cook for about 3 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet with the fish. Turn on the broiler.
Slide the fish under the broiler and cook for about 1 minute for each side. The skin should get crisp and bubble, and be slightly blackened.
Transfer carefully to a platter and garnish with scallions.
Final Assessment: This is one of the easiest ways to prepare and cook fish. The spicy-sweet sauce caramelized on the fish skin was divine without overpowering the mild flavor of the fish. And, eating a whole fish off the platter was great fun and made us feel more connected to the source of the food in a way that eating a fillet just doesn't do. Lest you think you'll get fork full of fish bones, if you're careful to lift the meat from the bones, it comes off with amazing ease and with very few bones, leaving only the vertebra and skeleton to marvel at. A+