Why This Recipe Works
- Delicate fish paste and meaty eggplants are a winning combination.
- Making seafood paste is a great way to use up fish or shellfish that may be too bland on their own.
- Shaping the paste into balls makes them easy to cook, and allows them to soak up any flavorful sauce in the pan.
Fish paste probably won't ever reach meat paste levels of popularity in Chinese and Vietnamese cookery—they rely too heavily on it for charcuterie and dumplings—but pulverized fish and shrimp still play a fairly prominent role. While the appeal of ground meat is universal, not everyone takes to the texture of seafood once it's been pounded into a paste: light and fluffy with a bouncy/chewy mouthfeel.
During dim sum, you'll most likely see fish or shrimp paste stuffed into eggplant. The pairing is a winner: the meaty eggplant provides a base for the delicate paste. The paste is also a common topping for noodles in Southern China, especially the Wenzhou region, which pairs slivers of steamed fish paste with pickled mustard greens for a soothing noodle soup dish.
In stir-fries, fish paste is deliciously shaped into rounded balls, which soak up whatever flavors are in the wok: soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar. Parboiled and simmered in such a manner, the texture of fish paste is not unlike that of fish cakes, another favorite in Asian cuisines and a common addition to ramen and hot-pot.
Try to buy the highest-quality, most delicious seafood you can afford. It's worth learning how to make fish and shrimp paste, especially if you're using up the less-than-stellar seafood scraps on your kitchen counter. If you find yourself with an insipid-tasting piece of fish that's perfectly fresh, pulverizing the fish and adding plenty of fresh herbs and seasonings is a great way to perk up the protein.
To prepare, simply process the fish in your food processor (or, chop finely by hand if you don't mind taking time) and mix with your choice of seasonings and herbs. Cilantro, Thai basil and shiso are all tasty additions to the paste.
Stir-fried Fish Paste with Eggplant and Squash Recipe
Perk up mild seafood by pulverizing it with herbs and seasonings into a flavorful paste.
2 medium Asian eggplants
1 zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch wide by 2 inch long sticks
8 ounces fish fillet, such as cod
2 ounces shrimp, peeled
For the Paste:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch ground white or black pepper
1/4 cup minced green onions, cilantro, Thai basil, or some combination thereof
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or lard
1 teaspoon rice wine
For the Stir-Fry:
2 to 3 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon chile oil
Cut eggplants into 1/2 inch wide by 2 inch long sticks. Bring a 3-quart large pot of water to boil and add eggplants. Blanch 1 to 2 minutes until eggplant is tender. Drain in colander.
Remove any visible bones in the fish. Finely chop fish. Add to food processor and pulse for 2 seconds. Add shrimp and pulse for 2 seconds more. Add cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, oil, and herbs and pulse. Add rest of ingredients for the paste and pulse for 1 second longer. Paste should be fine in texture but not completely uniform.
Heat wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic, and sticks of zucchini and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Swirl in 1 more tablespoon of oil and add fish paste by rounded spoonfuls, about 1 inch in diameter. Stir around to prevent sticking. Cook for 30 seconds, then add eggplant and stir-fry for 30 seconds more. Add more oil if necessary. Add soy sauce, sugar, and chile oil to the wok and stir around. Serve immediately.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||5%|
|Total Carbohydrate 16g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||44%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|