We love our seafood and often spend many happy hours at the market ogling at fish and inhabitants of the sea. One of our favourite markets is NSK in Kuchai Lama, it's a foodie wonderland of ingredients and FISH!
Fish, glorious fish! It is a staple living in Malaysia. Us at FriedChillies just sometimes have such a hankering for steamed fish, you know the kind- firm white flesh, sweet and almost creamy enriched with superior soya sauce. Good fish needs no complicated embellishments, a little ginger, garlic, some scallions and good oil. It crowns the table face upturned, fleshy insides turned out yielding a taste from the sea with every mouthful.
Which is why NSK market is such an awesome place. Yes, you can get all sorts of ingredients and household items here but we come here for fresh fish especially the deepwater kind. The fishes here are delivered fresh daily from around Malaysia. Here are some of the the wonderful fishies you can get for your cooking pot. Let's get to the best kinds for steaming.
Best fish to steam:
Kerapu Nas- RM32.80/ kg. Cheap and good entry level fish for steaming.
Kerapu Bintang- RM38.80/ kg. A level up, from Nas with softer flesh.
Kerapu Tujuh Bintang- RM68.80/ kg. This is the best and translates directly to the price mainly because it's harder to get being a very deepwater fish. When steamed its flesh remains soft with a refined taste.
Kerapu Harimau- Rm48.80/ kg. Commonly served in restaurants when you order a kerapu this is it, although this is an especially big specimen
Bawal Tauban- RM79.90/ kg. Texture of the meat is more firm and compact in comparison to kerapu.
Here's how we like to steam our fish.
- Wrestle home your kerapu/ bawal.
- After cleaning the fish, wipe some salt evenly on it.
- Pre-heat a covered wok with water. Place a metal wire rack right above the water level.
- Place fish on a plate on top of wire. Steam around 6 minutes for a small fish. (Depending on size and the heat of the water, cooking time may defer). You can also put in sliced ginger, garlic and scallions with the fish.
- When steamed, pour oil and special seafood soya sauce on top.
Fresh, seawater fish has softer meat and is tender when cooked without the muddy taste that's sometimes present with fresh water fish. If the fish is really fresh, after it's steamed the meat will bloom and turn a glorious white. That is why fish that is still swimming just before it's cooked will cost more.
When steamed fish is served during a reunion meal, it MUST be whole. Fish is not flipped to the other side when eaten, rather the bone is removed before eating. It is Chinese belief that fish represents a boat which sails on the sea. Flipping it will cause the boat to sink and this means you will fail in what you do in future. You also should not finish the whole fish and keep the head and tail intact- this symbolises "you tou you wei" meaning you will accomplish the things you set out to do for the year.
Fish with medicinal properties:
Malong- RM10.80/ kg. From the eel family. Usually chopped and cooked with soup. It has lots of gelatin in it said to be good for joint pains and rumour has it gets you friskier in bed.
Sembilang- RM11.80/ kg. This is cooked with spices like in a gulai/ clear broth. Good for your blood system.
Other fishes you can grab here for all sorts of cooking:
1. Jenahak- RM26.80/ kg. We like to slather this with some marinade and grill it on the barbecue with banana leaves.
2. Salmon King- RM36.80/ kg. One of the cheapest places to buy a whole salmon. This fish is riddled with fat hence we just season it lightly and bake it in the oven. Succulent with some dill mayonaise.
3. Ikan Merah Taufu- RM16.80/ kg. This is great for gravy dishes like a masak merah or a curry. Yum!
4. Bawal Emas- RM19.80/ kg. Gorgeous when fried and then with sweet and sour sauce poured over.