Last time I was at the Great Wall Supermarket in Franklin Park I decided to bring a whole fish back to my father, who at 86 is still an adventurous cook. (I know, apple-tree!) While picking out a nice red snapper for him, I noticed the Chinese woman next to me purchasing two small silver fish, flat and round. They were actually cute. I asked her what they were but she didn’t know the English name. She said she steamed them. Then she asked about the red snapper the fishmonger was cleaning for me, and I told her it was for my father, but that he would bake it.
They have a creative communications tool at the Great Wall – high above the fish counter is a chart with drawings of all the ways you can get your whole fish, from untouched to fully filleted. Each drawing is numbered, so the language barrier is nil. I chose number 2, just gutted and scaled.
She was somewhat surprised that a Westerner would eat a whole fish with bones, but such are the stereotypes of the culinary world. I decided to also buy one of her fish for myself. So she decided to add a red snapper to her order.
After searching around online, I found that my fish was a pomfret. Since it was small, it was easy to steam whole on a plate set on a wire rack in my wok. (A large steamer would also work, of course.) I put a couple tablespoons of light soy sauce and julienned ginger and scallion on top of the fish before cooking. After about 10 minutes, the fish was cooked through and the ginger and scallion were tender. Before serving I added a teaspoon of sesame oil. It was delicious.
Next time you’re at the Asian market, try saying “I’ll have what she’s having!”