After a few weeks of indulging in burgers and other meaty dishes, I was ready to return to more simple fare of fish and rice. As much as I love pasta–and I do mean love–I always crave the familiar sameness of rice. I’m certain it’s my Asian upbringing, eating rice at least once a day while growing up. My taste buds always feel comforted and “at home” when I take a bite of rice, no matter where I am.
I recall one such experience. We spent three weeks in Spain and ate our way through countless plates of paella and grilled sardines–right up my alley. It was fabulous to finally see a country that had been on my Top 3 to visit for so long. I spoke enough conversational Spanish to feel comfortable but it was the kindness of the locals that made me feel so welcome.
The last leg of our trip was spent in Basque country, San Sebastian to be exact, although we also got to see a little of Biarritz. Pintxos (tapas) and just great food all around abound in San Sebastian. It’s considered one of the dining cities in the world (I didn’t know this at the time of our visit but I can attest based on what we tasted). The old town, especially, was wonderful for walking around and discovering hidden-away restaurants that other tourists like me would not normally venture into, but we were so happy for doing so.
At any rate, by the time we returned to Barcelona to catch our flight home, I was ready for some Asian flavors, namely plain rice. We found a Thai restaurant that would sate the craving. Well, for a rice-loving girl like me, a teeny tiny bowl wasn’t going to be enough so I promptly ordered a second one to mop up all the sauce from my entrée. When we got the bill, the little bowls of rice were €8 each! Granted, we were happy with our meal but we spent €24 (over $30) for a side dish that would have cost much, much less at home. Oh well, live and learn.
My point to this long story is that my Asian roots speak loudly when it comes to my food cravings. This dish I prepared two days ago has a mixed Asian theme what with the sake, fresh ginger, sweet soy sauce and the coconut in the rice. I am very happy to say that the flavors were pleasantly harmonious. Sea bass is such an easy fish to work with because its high fat content makes it hard to overcook while it retains its delicate texture.
It works well with marinades, too. In this case, I combined the aforementioned ingredients and marinated the sea bass steak overnight. Even after almost 24 hours in the fridge, the flavors were still delicate, not overpowering at all. The individual ingredients didn’t vie for attention against the others but rather they worked together to envelop the fish with a fresh, slightly-sweet essence.
I’m disappointed that the fish didn’t photograph well here. I haven’t been very careful with my presentation lately–there’s the small issue of serving the food while it’s still hot. You get what you put in, obviously. I should have left the sea bass steak uncut before taking pictures of it. Still, you can see that it has just started to flake here; it was incredibly juicy.
For the rice, I was inspired by all the beautiful coconut milk-infused dishes I’ve been seeing lately. It was an easy decision to take a can out of my pantry and add it to my rice. I used a simple preparation: half water and half coconut milk. The result is a subtle coconut flavor that won’t be too rich (since coconut milk contains a lot of fat). I topped the rice with fried shallots for some crunch.
Lastly, a simple arugula salad (dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil) was actually a very good addition to this meal. I had a bag that needed to be eaten and the sharp, slightly-bitter note of the arugula paired well with the mellow, sweet flavors of the rice and fish.
Sake-Ginger-Soy Marinated Sea Bass with Coconut Rice
For the Sea Bass:
- 1 pound sea bass steak
- Scant 1/4 cup sake (you can use mirin instead, a Japanese rice wine)
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2-3 tsp sweet soy sauce (You can sub regular soy sauce but you’ll have to add a bit of sugar)
- Juice of 3 kalamansi limes or 1 tablespoon lemon
For the Coconut Rice:
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
- Coconut milk (I used roughly half of a 14-oz can)
- No-salt seasoning (optional)
Note: I’ll share with you my virtually foolproof way of measuring liquid for cooking rice below.
To prepare the fish: Combine the sake, sweet soy sauce, grated ginger and citrus juice in a bowl. Taste it and adjust to your liking. When you’re satisfied add the olive oil. I marinated mine in a gallon-size Ziploc bag so it would be easier to turn the fish as it marinated. Marinate for a few hours or one day like I did.
To cook, I used a cast-iron griddle on the stovetop. Make sure that the griddle is very hot. Cook the fish for a few minutes on each side. Cooking times may vary especially since you can also prepare this in your outdoor grill or the broiler. My rule of thumb is to check the fish about 3 minutes after you start.
To prepare the rice: Cook the rice as you normally would either in your rice cooker or the stovetop. I used approximately equal measures of water and coconut milk to get the subtle coconut flavor I was after. I also added a dash or two of no-salt seasoning to brighten the flavor of the rice.
Here’s my tip: I seldom use my rice cooker since there are only two of us at home. Most of the time, I cook rice in a small saucepan. If you measure out anywhere from one to three cups of uncooked rice, I add enough liquid to cover the rice up to the first joint on my finger if I dip it in the rice. Does this make sense? After rinsing the rice in the sauce pan, I add enough water to cover it plus a little more. I dip one of my fingers in the water and stop as soon as the tip of my finger hits the rice. I add as much water as would cover the first line on the inside of my finger. I learned this from my mother and it works very well. Whether you use a small sauce pan or large, the rice always turns out right, not too dry and not too wet.
For the coconut rice, I added just enough water to cover the rice and added the coconut milk for the remaining liquid required. Cover and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Top with fried shallots if you like.