Saturday, January 3, 2009

Fish, fish and more fish!

I hope you're not getting tired of hearing about my visit home to Las Vegas. Good! Because I have a little more I want to share.

It seems like every time I visit LV, there's a new fancy-schmancy casino opening and Mom always insists on taking me to see it. This time it was Steve Wynn's Encore. I think she was a bit disappointed I didn't want to go, but I'm just not into that sort of thing.

I wanted to go to a fish market instead.

I was in the mood for fish so I conned my 19 year old nephew into going to Seafood City, a Pinoy grocery and fish market. The selection was quite impressive. There were at least 20 fresh, fully intact types of fish available, labeled with where they were from and whether they were farmed or wild (if only I had brought my camera!!). In addition, there were live tanks with crab and a shrimp bar with a selection of fresh shrimp (some with heads! yay!). You pick the fish you want and bring it up to a counter for weighing. They will also clean and fry the fish for you, free of charge. (Fried smelt, anyone?)

Pompano are cute, aren't they? Especially when they're marinating in soy sauce, white pepper and lots (lots!) of garlic. They were simply fried to a crisp and eaten with sticky rice and dipping sauce.

Now, we get great seafood here in Portland, but the selection can be a bit limited. I had the opposite problem at Seafood City. I just didn't know what the hell to choose. Las Vegas is landlocked so everything was obviously shipped in, some from far away places. Made it kinda hard to choose local. I finally settled on a couple large streaked spinefoot and a few small pompano.

If one is called a spinefoot, then two would be spinefeet?? In any case, they were rubbed with a paste made of garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and salt. Before we steamed them, mom doused them with a couple splashes of Healthy Boy mushroom soy sauce.

BTW, if you go to a place like Seafood City, you need to put on your poker face. Not because of any fishy smells. I was actually pleasantly surprised that it only smelled of the sea. But you may witness some unforgettable moments. Like when one customer dropped her fish on the floor, picked it up with her hands (completely unphased) and put it back in the plastic bag from which it fell. Or the other customer that tried to stuff a giant, fresh squid into a plastic bag that was not quite big enough. Apparently she didn't mind that the tentacles were splayed out in her cart, along with her other grocery items. It was simultaneously horrifying and hysterical. (Note to self: Never put fresh produce into a cart if it's not securely tied in a plastic bag. You never know who's been using the cart before you.)

What started out as a couple of fish dishes turned into a fish feast. In addition to the spinefoot and pompano we had fried mackerel courtesy of one of Mom's friends, shrimp fried rice and tom yum goong (which I made and Mom loved! yay!). Mom even made a delicious fish dip spiked with fermented fish juice! Yum!

Steamed spinefoot. The broth was awesome!

Bottom row: pompano. Top row: mackerel. People are always trying to do fish in some fancy way, but to me there's nothing better than crispy fried salted fish. I guess I'm just a country bumpkin :-)

When making tom yum, to prevent hard, rubbery shrimp, don't add them in until after you've added all the other ingredients and seasoned the soup to your liking. Turn off the heat and drop the shrimp in. Don't stir! Just put the lid on and wait about 5 to 7 minutes, then serve.

There's a fermenting fish in there! Mom used the juice to make a dip with fire roasted tomatoes, shallots, garlic, chilies and some fish meat. It really did taste a lot better than it sounds.

Shrimp fried rice for my stepdad. He doesn't eat much Thai food. Puzzling, huh?

And here are some final random pictures:

Grilled sticky rice. Thai sticky rice is steamed then cooked with coconut milk, sugar and salt. The rice is put into a banana leaf then grilled. This batch has a layer of taro (faintly purple), which is a little hard to see. My relatives brought these all the way from Michigan.

Mom called these Daughter-in-law eggs. It's fried eggs topped with a Thai-style sweet and sour pork stir fry. Apparently peas are the norm but she just used some left over veggie mix from Christmas dinner.

Another of Mom's friends missed our seafood extravaganza, but brought this over the following day. It was awesome! Crispy fried tilapia with a sweet, garlicky, spicy sauce. Better than what you can get at any restaurant!

Stir-fried bean sprouts don't sound very exciting, but this is a very flavorful dish. It has lots of garlic and simply seasoned with mushroom soy sauce and oyster sauce. This is more the type of simple stir-fry I grew up eating.

That's it! Hope you enjoyed seeing the type of Thai food we eat at home.


Manggy said...

That's the great thing about celebrations and holidays loaded with food-- lotsa blog mileage, heh heh :) I could never tire of your posts, Darlene! And I am a true-blue Pinoy/ seafood lover, it all looks awesome. My favorites would be the fried macks and tilapia too, hee hee :) And of course, the shrimp fried rice-- beautiful!
We have a similar wrapped sticky rice dessert here called suman, but it's not grilled far as I know. But it looks almost exactly the same!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Love all the home cooking. I must be a country bumpkin too because I like fish that's simply salted and fried too. Dipped in chili fish sauce. And eaten with jasmine rice.

dp said...

Manggy, this particular trip home was especially fun. Mom called all her friends in to make the different dishes. The thing that really cracks me up is that she told them I'd feature their food on my MySpace site. haha! That's how much mom knows about my blog.

WC, very few things are better than fried salted fish with dipping sauce and rice. That's the simple type of food I grew up eating.

Jason said...

Wow, I haven't cooked that much fish in the last year! Everything looks really amazing. Hope you had a very wonderful New Years, Cheers!

MaryRuth said...

OMG--will your family adopt me? That stuff looks soooo good and now I'm really hungry. There's a Seafood City on my way home from work--I'll have to check it out.
Happy New Year!

Dee said...

Jason, your new year resolution can be to eat more fish!

MaryRuth, I didn't know Seafood City was a chain. And I'm glad to hear you're a seafood lover! My mom may consider adoption when I tell her you come from a family that carries pork products in your luggage AND you love seafood :-)

Lars said...

Why wasn't I invited to this fish feast!!! And mushroom soup is always good but i haven't tried it hungarian style, looks good.

Paula said...

I'd rather go to the fish market than a casino any day! The squid/shopping cart thing really does make you want to line the grocery cart with plastic bags! Your mom has to adopt me because I love every single dish here. Those daughter in law eggs look great. You guys truly had a feast! I'd love a plate of that fried pompano with dipping sauce. Ah, there's no place like home. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hey d all of the food looked delicious. I love Thai food. My wife and I frequent Chaba Thai in the NE
because it's in our neighborhood. Any other suggestions?

Dee said...

James, I think Chaba Thai is probably the best around. We're closer in so we don't go there much, only when we have special guests. There's like 5 Thai restaurants in our neighborhood, but the only one we frequent is Chai Yo. Still, I think Chaba Thai is just a notch above.

There's a couple other places I want to try, but just haven't found the opportunity yet.

Dee said...

Paula, there really is no place like home. Las Vegas is so strange to me even though I grew up there. And my family is a riot, literally. It's always chaos. Mom always has her friends over. There's my brother and his kids and the guitar he takes everywhere. Nothing like being serenaded with Christmas music rock star style. It takes a few days for Sonny to get back into our routine when we get home. My poor husband is so not used to this kind of family life, but he's very good at taking it in stride.

Foodzings said...

the bean sprouts look delish! i could just eat them even plain all the time. what an easy and simple dish!

Dee said...

Foodzings, I love bean sprouts too, but Hubby not so much. I think he's not used to them, but I grew up eating them all the time. That okay, his loss!