Sunday, October 23, 2016

To cook from scratch, or not

Basa in black bean sauce

Theoretically I like the idea of making everything from scratch. This not only applies to my interest in cooking, but also to other aspects of my life. And so, assembly line isn't really my thing. Needless to say the satisfaction that one derives from doing something from get-go all the way to the end, is far beyond any that involves assembling ready-made items. Hence, I ask, when it is really okay to say 'I made this from scratch?' Let me give an example, when I have a peanut butter jelly sandwich using store-bought peanut butter, jelly, and bread, and say that I made it - is it really true? Or am I merely putting together these three components of the sandwich? :P

Well, that said, how practical is my idea? Not particularly, and definitely not when one is like me, with oodles of the lazy gene and a natural tendency to love sleep! In an ideal world, where I could do only the things I wanted to, perhaps things could have been different, in addition to having a bank account spilling over with crisp, clean notes. In fact, after my pesto post, I am ashamed to say that there has been little experimental cooking in my kitchen. 

Lately, I had been craving for Chinese food, especially for some variety of a stir-fried fish preparation. I zero-ed down on fish cooked in a black bean sauce, and did a Google search for a black bean sauce recipe, and realized that fermented black beans would be next to impossible to find here. Well, not impossible perhaps, but with limited means and an urge to instantly satiate my craving, I did what any sensible person would do. I bought a bottle of black bean sauce! And out flew all my plans of working from scratch!

Ah well. So, last weekend for my mum's birthday, I decided to make a quick fish in black bean sauce and served it with some noodles. The sauce turned out delicious. Basa, like always, had an almost-melt-in-the-mouth texture, perfectly complementing the slightly crunchy green capsicum. The original recipe can be found here.

On a platter

What you need

500 gm basa fillet
2 tbsp cornflour
2 onions, small-sized, quartered
2 capsicums, cut into small pieces
1 inch ginger, sliced
2 pods garlic, chopped
1 dried red chilli, deseeded
2-3 tbsp water mixed with 1/2 tsp cornflour, as a thickening agent

2 tbsp black bean sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp fish sauce
3/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp water

How to

Wash and clean the fillet and cut into small bite size pieces. Sprinkle this with the 2 tbsp of cornflower and keep aside.

Once the fish has been prepped, the sauce can be prepared. In a small bowl, mix together the black bean sauce with the sesame oil, fish sauce, and sugar. Add 2 tbsp of water to this paste.

Now for the cooking: In a non-stick pan, add some cooking oil and let it heat. Then add the dried red chilli, ginger, onions, garlic, and capsicum. Cook on high heat till fragrant. 

Now, move the veggies to the side of the pan and add the corn-flour coated fish. Give everything a good stir and cook until the fish is three-fourth cooked. Basa is a very soft fish and it took scarcely a couple of minutes to complete this step.

Then, add the sauce and give it a good stir so that the fish and veggies are coated in the sauce. 

Finally, add the cornfour mixed with water. After five minutes turn off the heat and cover the pan. This restaurant-style fish in black bean sauce is now ready to be served!

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