I have to let some off because I'm pissed. No. I'm just kidding...not entirely. The price of fish at Whole Foods is ridiculously high and I frequently miss out on some damn good fish because of this. Don't even think to suggest that I should try Stop and Shop or any other local market for fish. It's not worth it. Especially when steam is involved in its preparation.
The other day I just said, "Fuck it. I'm having fish. Damn good fish!" Finally giving into their monopoly on decent seafood in Providence (Anyone have any suggestions?) I went to Whole Foods to pick up a nice white flaky fish like cod, but budgetary reality wouldn't allow me to indulge my foodie whims. Unfortunately the haddock looked dull and the other varieties of fish didn't even deserve to be on display. (Did you know that most farm-raised Salmon is color-enhanced???) I picked out a couple of flounder fillets: white with rosy flesh-colored centers, subtle vein filigrees and bright shimmer.
Ideally I would've liked to have a fillet of cod steamed in Napa Cabbage with some light Asian flavors; however, I was forced to make yet another substitution. Neither Whole Foods nor Stop and Shop had Napa so I grabbed a small head of Savoy instead. I didn't know what to expect of this pairing of flounder and Savoy Cabbage, but I knew that I would be using some of my favorite Asian ingredients so I was at least looking forward to having that.
At home I began my preparations by layering about six cabbage leaves directly on the steaming platform. I nestled both fillets among the leaves and poured some sesame oil and somen tsuyu on top. Somen tsuyu--meaning somen dipping broth in Japanese--includes shoyu (a highly concentrated soy sauce), citrus, and extracts from various fish skins like bonito and sea vegetables like kelp. Not to be overpowered by the intensity of the shoyu, the broth is light and because of the bonito it is nice and smoky. It's typically used as a savory complement for somen--a wheat noodle resembling soba in size and shape. I used the somen tsuyu as a flavor base and added a few dashes of shoyu to provide salt and highlight the other ingredients I added.
With a couple of minced garlic cloves, sliced ginger that looked like matchsticks, and a bias-cut scallion, I finished assembling the dish. I set the steaming platform in the pot, folded the cabbage leaves over the fish and covered it with the lid. The cabbage leaves were a little resistant to the lid so I kept an eightball I found in my kitchen on top to ensure that the lid wouldn't pop off. No joke. You can see for yourself. What else is true is that the eightball was the fortune-telling kind and so I felt that I should consult with it to see if this dish was going to be any good.
Indeed it was, but I really would've preferred cod and Napa cabbage. The flounder held the flavor just as well, but it was the mushy texture that made me crave the flaky flesh of the cod. Compared to Napa's flavor and texture, Savoy was slightly bitter and tough and overpowered the relatively meager fish. The best part for me was the somen tsuyu and the combination of fresh garlic and ginger. The steam brought out all of these flavors subtly and ultimately made it a good dish--although not great.