Over the next few days, you’ll be seeing daily blog posts from me under a completely different theme. Those of you who even vaguely know me understand my obsession with food, so this will probably come as no surprise; I signed up to do the #OlympicFoodChallenge with a group of fabulous food bloggers – the aim is to cook a traditional meal from each of the 204 countries over the 19 days of the Olympics between us – 19 recipes each.
My list is hilarious. There are countries I have (unsurprisingly, given my basic knowledge of geography) never heard of, and it’s one of these that I decided to kick off the challenge with; Palau.
Palau is part of the archipelago known as ‘The Black Islands’ and has a population of just 21,000. In spite of this, a healthy amount of tourists head to the island each year and as a result, Palauan cuisine has sadly diminished over the years. Young people on the island are increasingly choosing Western food and culture – although why they would poo-poo chomping down on a fruit bat or two is beyond me.
Japanese and Korean traditions heavily influence Palauan culture, and as such, I dipped in and out of three different recipes to create my Palauan fish dish; Palauan Fish with Coconut Rice and Plantain.
I was meant to use mackerel for this, but I hate all the fiddly little bones – I’m such a fish heathen – so I used sea bass instead. Baking a whole mackerel in the oven instead of using fillets on the hob would work fantastically, I would imagine – if you like that sort of thing.
For the Palauan Fish
2 good-sized sea bass fillets
1Tbsp hot chilli paste
1tsp minced garlic (I used smoked garlic – it was immense)
1Tbsp sesame oil
1tsp finely grated ginger
1tsp oyster sauce
1Tbsp soy sauce
1Tbsp brown sugar
1Tbsp lemon juice
1Tbsp sesame seeds
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped (just the green bits)
For the Plantain
1Tbsp sesame oil
For the Coconut Rice
Rice, cooked according to the instructions
1 stick lemongrass, well bruised
Start with the rice. Make it up according to the instructions on the packet. In the meantime, warm the coconut milk in a pan and add the bashed lemongrass. Just before the rice is fully cooked (a few minutes or so) add the coconut/lemongrass mixture and allow the rice to fully soak up the liquid. You only need a few tablespoons of the liquid.
Now for the plantain – warm a good slosh of sesame oil in a frying pan and slice the plantain into diagonal chunks around 1cm thick. Pop them in the pan and turn occasionally until you’ve plated everything else up.
Don’t forget them.
Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil for your fish in a separate frying pan.
While you’re waiting for it to become smoking hot, mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl. Don’t be shy, just whack it all in and give it a good mix.
Add your fish to your hot oil, skin side down and leave for a few minutes until the skin becomes crispy.
Baste the fish generously with the sauce, flipping over to baste the skin side as well.
Tip the rest of the sauce into the pan along with the spring onions.
Stir the chopped coriander through the rice, and lay out on your serving plates. Lay your fish out on top and spoon the sauce over the top. Arrange your plantain in a fancy way on the side.
Eat and enjoy*.
*So, there are a couple of things to mention here. Firstly, I know a lot of people like their fish skin crispy – it won’t work with the way I’ve done it, but it does mean that the fish takes on the maximum amount of delicious flavor. Secondly, the plantain brings absolutely nothing to this dish at all, but I like the way it looks.