Friday, December 25, 2009

Steamed carp with ginger


500g grass carp
4 spring onions
1 inch cube of ginger
1 tsp salt
4 tablespoons rice wine
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil

  1. Scale and gut the carp (this may have been done already), wash well in plenty of cold water, cut off the head and tail, and cut the body into steaks. (Or alternatively, fillet the carp. There are excellent step by step instructions on how to do this, including detailed photos, at
  2. Finely chop the ginger, slice the spring onion, and mix with the carp and all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Leave to marinade for 30 minutes.
  3. Steam for 12 minutes over a high heat. (The best way to do this is probably in a wok, on a plate supported on a bamboo steaming rack and covered with a lid.)

Pleasure or pain?
Cooking sometimes feels like a complicated form of masochism, and this was certainly the case with our Christmas Eve meal this year. A few weeks before Christmas, when I was still in Italy, I got an excited email from my mum saying they had carp in the Polish shop round the corner, and should she order a couple. Then a week later I got another email saying that she was having second thoughts about the carp, having spoken to my sister, who had told her it was "gelatinous and fleshy and really disgusting" and had put her off it.

I always like the opportunity of cooking and eating something new, but didn't fancy the idea of producing a meal for a house full of carp refuseniks, so we cut the order down to one and I promised to do something Chinese with it and make some other dishes too. I decided to fillet the carp and steam it with ginger and some other light seasonings. Apart from disguising its 'carpiness' from some of my less adventurous diners, this also meant I could remove the fish's "mud vein". On the plus side, it wasn't too difficult - carp is a big fish and it was fairly easy to fillet. On the minus side, after about 15 minutes of amateur fishmongery I was left with around 300g of fillet from a 1.2 kg fish. I don't think I'd wasted too much, just that the fish's head, tail, bones, skin and mud vein make up about 3/4 of its weight.

The end result was fine, but hard for me to judge whether it was a success, heavily flavoured as it was with mutual resentment. If I get carp again, I think I'll just slice it into steaks and let people deal with the skin and mud vein themselves. And anyone who complains can just choke on their fishbones.

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