This weekend we went to a HUGE wet market in Xiamen to pick up some fresh fish. I’ve been watching Bravo’s Top Chef, and in one of the episodes, all the contestants had to cook a different kind of fish. Now, to be honest, I’m not usually a huge fan of fish – I just HATE bones – but I was inspired.
This Chinese wet market is AWESOME! I mean, talk about fresh! Stalls full of seasonal vegetables, fresh fish swimming about in tubs or flopping frantically on trays, live poultry running around, eggs of every size and color…
We found some chopstick-thin fresh asparagus spears – they had the freshest snap and grassy aroma – some small Thai chilies, tender young snow peas, sweet red peppers… And then we found a small sea bass (I’m not sure exactly what variety) for about $2 a pound! It was still alive and flopping around on a metal tray. The fisher lady clubbed it and had it scaled and cleaned in seconds.
We brought it home and for the first time in my life, I filleted a fresh fish. It was not actually as difficult as it sounds. I found it easier by making a slit along the top spinal fin, and cutting down, using small strokes, along the bone until I reached the backbone. Then I sliced off the fillet from the tail to the ribcage.
I ended up simply pan-frying the fish with a buttery lemon-cilantro sauce, just chock-full of flavor. We had the asparagus spears, which were so young and tender, they didn’t even need to be cooked, but I ended up broiling them for 2 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil. We had this over wild and white rice, which sopped up the buttery juices.
A perfect spring meal, and honestly better than any fish I’ve had in a restaurant. My husband also said that it was the best asparagus he had ever tasted.
Lemon-Cilantro Sea Bass
2 sea bass fillets
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1/3 cup of flour
¼ cup butter
juice of ½ lemon
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
Rinse and dry the fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then dredge both sides in flour.
In a skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil and butter together. Fry the fillets until golden and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick your fillets are. Remove to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
In skillet over medium heat, swirl ¼ cup butter to melt. Add lemon juice and swirl to incorporate. Add cilantro. Remove immediately from heat and pour over fish. Serve with lemon wedges (optional).