Soul-Good Barramundi Stew Teochew-Style
(Fish* | Contains Gluten | Dairy-Free)
*May contain fine bones
Do you remember the last time you ate something so great that all you could think about for days after was that very dish? Chef Willin’s “yu pin mai fan” or poached flounder in roasted fish stock was THAT dish for me! Chef Willin truly lived up to his reputation of being the “Father of Mod Sin”, kickstarting the wave of trendy interpretations on typical local dishes, yet always retaining the core spirit of the heritage dishes. This amazing flounder was moist with the intense flavour of a full-bodied stock, none too fishy, and shone in its own light amidst the bold bursts from the kiam chye, pesto and chewy barley. I probably embarrassed myself at the dinner table with my very enthusiastic eating, but that dish was quite the showstopper! I could barely contain my excitement when I told Chef Willin after my last morsel, “I will love to do a soup rendition of this!”
While creating the recipe, I was reminded of my visits to my seafood supplier whose hospitable family always warmly opens their homes to us. For one of the dinners, Mama Chia steamed a grey mullet, a fish not commonly found in most markets and prized for its stomach that is rich, healthy and tasty. The Teochews call it “oh her”, typically eaten steamed with a piquant tau cheo or salted soya bean dip. She does the fish with such finesse, with the subtlety of a chef who knows her ingredients inside out. The fish scales were kept on to protect the delicate flesh, and after the fish is cooked through, she peeled off the skin together with the scales, leaving behind the silky soft mullet flesh.
Inspired by these fish specialties and my love for heritage dishes, this SouperChef Special is a cross between Teochew steamed pomfret and a Teochew fish porridge, bringing out the soul of Teochew cooking. You’ll find the familiar elements of Teochew steamed fish like the preserved mustard greens (kiam chye) and preserved beans (dau cheo), with barley and freekeh to substitute the rice grains of Teochew porridge, and the added depth of dried sole fish (pian yu). We are so happy to once again partner Kühlbarra, who farms the barramundi fish in our local waters. Barramundi is very similar to Chilean seabass or snapper with really firm meat, low in fat and high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. I think I can eat this every day!
Ingredients: Fish stock (water, barramundi bones, salt), barramundi, beancurd, salted mustard greens (kiam chye), leek, shiitake mushrooms, barley, freekeh, lemons, kaffir lime leaves, onions, ginger, garlic, preserved bean paste (dau cheo), fish sauce, soy sauce, white pepper, corn starch, salt, dried sole fish
Condiments: Sour plum salsa (tomatoes, sour plum, coriander, preserved bean paste, lemon juice), coriander, ginger scallion sauce