Baked Fish with Secret Sauce/ The love of my mom (Part 1)

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It is a pretty unusual situation, that my husband and I actually invited ourselves to our friends Tuomas and Eveliina’s place to make dinner for them. 😀 Very different but it was actually really nice. We always have a great time together and they have such a beautiful home and kitchen. In exchange Eveliina, who is a talented, professional photographer took pictures for my blog, what more can I ask for?! It is my first time preparing food for them, therefore I wanted to cook something I really like, something I love the most, which is my mom’s cooking, who is not here in Finland. She lives in malaysia.

I go back home to Malaysia every 12 to 18 months, and that’s when I meet my beloved mother, grandmother, daddy, sister, brother, cousins, best friends… Oh it made me sad just to name them because I haven’t seen them for over a year now. And when we do meet, we never hang around for long because of my short holiday. But every time I do go home, my mom would make me a table full of fancy dishes to show me her love. She has never said it out loud though. Asian parents are rather strict and rigid. There is even one saying that ‘To beat is to care; to scold is to love’. And I need not to say more. 😀

But my point was to tell you that my mom loves me. Yes she does. 😉 I remember she used to know only a few dishes and she cooked almost the same food every other week. For example ‘the one and only/ 独孤一味’chicken, that is also where the name came from. Later on she became more into cooking and eating, like me. She started to be really good at cooking out of a sudden. Besides ‘the one and only’, my favorite dishes from her would be ginger chicken cooked in wine, herbal chicken, oat-meal prawn, steamed fish, stir-fried bean sprout, and many more. And you know what, my mom makes the best soup on earth. She never hesitated to put in all the ingredients that would cost more than eating out, therefore most of the times salt or pepper are not needed for the soups she makes at all.

I wanted to show Tuomas and Eveliina the kind of dinner that I would eat when I go back home. It would be a classic Asian dinner of 3 dishes plus 1 soup. So I decided to make my mom’s signature dish ‘the one and only’, baked fish with secret sauce, stir-fried broccoli with shrimp and soup with tofu and preserved mustard. These dishes are those kinds that are very homey and heart-warming. Unfortunately, I cannot share ‘the one and only’ recipe to you guys because it is a dish created by my grandmother, which she taught my mom how to cook it, and then my mom passed it down to me. I have called and asked my mom about this issue, and she would very much like to keep this family recipe just within ourselves, so I respect her wish. But, to replace this dish I am going to share a secret sauce that I created myself inspired by my mom’s steamed fish. And it is a good stuff. At least Tuomas, Eveliina and their 2 years old child, Matilda who is quite picky about food ate the whole fish! It was ALL gone! In fact, I was digging from the bones to find the last small pieces of meat just to get enough for Matilda when she kept asking for more. So I think they really liked it a lot.

In Finland it is difficult to find a proper steamer anywhere, the only thing available probably would be the bamboo steamer for DimSum which definitely would not fit a fish as a whole. Therefore I tried to bake it, and it turned out perfect. But it also depends on how fresh the fish is. I would not recommend using a frozen fish because it wouldn’t turn out the same. The combination of saltiness from the sauce together with the sweetness from the fresh fish makes you wanna eat more rice. They go so well together!

Ingredients:

1 kg Trout

1 tbsp Oil

1 tbsp minced Ginger + 5 pieces of sliced Ginger

2 clove Garlic, minced

1 Chili, seeded and minced

1 Spring onion, cut into 4” length sticks

1 tbsp Plum sauce

1 tbsp Oyster sauce

1 tbsp Black bean sauce

1 tbsp Soy sauce

1 tbsp Water

Methods:

1) Preheat oven to 220 Celsius. Cut the surface of the fish vertically to help it to cook more evenly (see image below).

2) Place ginger slices and spring onion inside the cut areas of the fish (tummy and surface). Drizzle oil onto the surface of the fish.

3) Place fish in a container and cook in oven for 20-25 minutes (until cooked completely).

4) Meanwhile, heat up oil in a saucepan and put in garlic, minced ginger and chili. Fry until fragrant.

5) Add in all the remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Pour in hot over the cooked fish and served immediately. Top up with additional chili and spring onion if desired.

Note: I took the seeds out from the chili so the dish was mild even for a 2 years old. If I cook for myself, I’d like it spicier so I would keep the seeds as it is. 🙂

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007Look at granny Eva putting fish into the oven. 😀

013Hmm…nam namm!

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Take a peek of the very mysterious ‘the one and only’ 😉

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Finnish Salmon Soup / Into the wild

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I am so blessed. This summer has been really warm and I finally have my summer break ‘almost’ free after 3 years of intensive studies pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. My husband and I already went to Barcelona in July and last week we even drove all the way from Helsinki up north to Norway and back, 3029 km in total. 😀 Imagine I have already had 2 holidays! Yes, I know, I’m so lucky. Barcelona was great, full of delicacies, cultures, architectures and energy! But I’ve got so tired. Don’t get me wrong, it was the excitement of the city; I was overjoyed. 🙂 But what I want to emphasise is that Finland is one of the most beautiful places in the world where you can really let go and loosen up completely, particularly during the summer time. When the sun is up, the water is cool, the sauna steaming hot, fishes jumping out from the lake, sausages grilling on the coal, and cold beers. Birds fly, wind blows. The sound of leaves, the smell of birch, period. And my phone battery ended, how perfect. That was when I finally disconnected from everybody, everything else that does not really matter. The moment of stillness, emptiness and silence is so calming that it made me feel like it was worth dying for. It was real that felt so unreal. If you can only imagine.

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Kaamanen, a village where we camped in Inari, Lapland of Finland.

My husband and I were camping along our way, mostly next to the rivers. During our road trip, we met countless reindeers and sheep on the road as expected. We also saw them crossing the river and running under the mountains, amazingly beautiful. I can tell you that we were truly back into the wild. How? We drank straight from the clear rivers, we cooked and ate organic foods (we picked wild berries and mushrooms), we washed ourselves in the rivers and we also tried to fish our dinner. 😉 On our way we visited my husband’s uncle Kari in Tervola, where his partner Sinikka has her own garden, how cool! Before we headed on to Norway, Kari gave us some fresh dill, onions, new potatoes and salmon that he caught from the Kemi river next to their home.

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Here come the new potatoes and fresh dill.

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Kari is kind, truthful and super humorous. He loves to watch Bold and Beautiful. 😀 😀 Kari and Sinikka are one of the most caring people we know. It is completely stress-free to hang out with them. ❤

Alright back to the business. What do you eat when you go into the wild? You can make sushi straight from the fresh salmon, if you happen to have sushi rice with you. 😀 Or sashimi. I happened to have fresh dill, onions, new potatoes and salmon, so it called for a Finnish classic cuisine ‘Lohikeitto’,  salmon soup. It’s like sweet and sour from China, fish and chips from UK and mac and cheese from US for examples. You can’t miss a salmon soup when you visit Finland, at least it is one of the most common Nordic dishes among the locals. It is great all year around, during winter -30 celsius or summer +30 celsius, it tastes always as good! And it’s super easy. Learn it and you won’t regret it.

(Make 2 servings)

Ingredients:

500g Salmon, skinned and cubed
6 Medium size potatoes, cubed
1 Onion, sliced
1 l High fat milk (3%)
1 bunch dill, chopped
1 tbsp Butter
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

Methods: (When you are inside a tent)

1) Melt butter in pan/pot. Add sliced onion and fry until fragrant. Add potatoes and sauté until soften (I think it is faster to cook by sauteing than boiling with a portable stove).

2) Add in salmon and sauté until it turns pink (cooked). Add in milk, salt and pepper. Cook with high heat but do not let the milk to boil.

3) Cook the soup until the potatoes are soft and good to eat. Mix in the chopped dill and served warm with rye bread.

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Note: In a proper kitchen, people cook the onion and potatoes with water, and add in salmon and dill just before serving, cream is rather optional.  By accident I found it better in taste by just adding milk instead of water. Thanks for my mother-in-law who taught me to use high fat milk for this recipe. It tasted so ‘complete’! Pure satisfaction!

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Hyvää ruokahalua!

IMG_1119Here is a picture of me preparing to cook inside of our tent. WILD! 😀