04 March, 2012

Baked White Sea Bass with Drunken Baby Potatoes and Cumin Rice

Sunday lunches have always been special. It's the weekend and one has all the time that one needs to enjoy and savour each and every mouthful of lunch. No rush ..... a leisurely Sunday afternoon lunch is something that these four foodies at home always look forward to.

Come to think of it, we've also had phases - there was a phase when Sunday lunch meant biryani and raita. There have been many such. Nowadays, if we happen to make a trip across to City'super on Saturday, then Sunday lunch, invariably, is fish. I'm yet to find such excellent quality fish anywhere else in HK. The variety too, in City'super, is mind boggling. It is pricey in comparison with some of the other supermarkets in HK but the quality more than makes up for it - the Sea Bass was HKD 60 per 100gms but the staff at City'Super also clean the fish, take out the bones and the skin, upon request. So all that remains is cooking those lovely fillets, as we wish, to perfection.

One such trip to City'Super yesterday saw us once again in the seafood section. Just as we were trying to make up our minds between the fresh tuna steaks and the fresh Tasmanian Salmon cuts, one of the staff walked up with a banana leaf, placed that on the ice and yet another staff brought in 4 lovely cuts of fresh white sea bass. One look at that and we were hooked. Two of those lovely cuts of White Sea Bass made their way home with us.

Today's lunch - presented by Chef Vic - was Baked White Sea Bass with Drunken Baby Potatoes and Cumin Rice.

Baked White Sea Bass


Fresh White Sea Bass Fillets : 4 (each fillet weighed about 200 gms)

Chopped Spring Onions / Scallions : the green and the white portion

2 inch piece of ginger : julienned

Rock Salt / Sea salt : to taste

Wash the fish fillets and evenly sprinkle half of the julienned ginger and the chopped spring onion at the base of the baking pan. Place the fish fillets on the bed of ginger and spring onion. Sprinkle the other half of the julienned ginger and chopped spring onion on top of the fish fillets. Sprinkle rock salt. Bake uncovered at 200 degrees celsius for 20 mins (do not preheat the oven).

Drunken Baby Potatoes


12 baby potatoes - boiled until it is just cooked

Rock Salt

about 75 ml : Chinese Rice Wine

Halve the baby potatoes. Do not peel the skin. Soak the baby potatoes in the rice wine for half an hour. Once marinated in the rice wine, line the baby potatoes in the baking pan (skin side down) and pour whatever is left of the marinade onto the potatoes. Sprinkle rock salt and bake at 200 degrees celsius for 20 mins (do not preheat oven).

We baked the fish fillets and the baby potatoes together in the same pan.

Cumin Rice


1 cup Thai Rice

2 tsps cumin seeds

3 pinches of salt (table salt)

1 tsp oil

Roast the cumin seeds until very light brown. The aroma of the cumin seeds will tell you when it is done.

Add 2 cups of water to 1 cup of Thai Rice. We cook the rice in a stone pot. Add the oil, salt and the roasted cumin seeds and let the rice cook in the stone pot until it starts bubbling away. Turn off the gas (there will be liquid on top of the rice) , cover the stone rice pot and the rest of the cooking gets done in the heat that is retained by the stone pot.

Lunch, cooked by Chef Vic today, was absolutely divine. Best part - it was so very healthy too. No fat, no oil needed (the fish had enough Omega oils). Using rock salt is very important - do not use table salt or cooking salt. The rock salt ensures that the entire fish fillet does not become salty. This way you get to enjoy the natural taste of the fish (I have to add here that this fish was like butter - melt in the mouth texture). When you least expect it, you get a grain of rock salt and as your teeth crunch into that grain, the resultant explosion of tastes simply rocks you. It brings out all the flavours at once - the buttery flavour of the fish, the pungency of the ginger, the exotic taste of the spring onions - it is all there. Fish, ginger and spring onions are like marriages made in heaven. Sublime and divine and they complement each other supremely.

01 March, 2012

Down Memory Lane ...

(Image courtesy : williesimpson.com via Google)

“Yeh daulat bhi le lo yeh shoharat bhi le lo” crooned Jagjit Singh, the other day. As he continued singing, I wonder if he realized the number of pathways he was creating – through the fog of life, foraying into people’s imagination and memories, bringing back reminiscences which, in one way or the other, embodied the spirit of childhood as it was, for our generation.

ye daulat bhii le lo, ye shoharat bhii le lo
bhale chhiin lo mujhase merii javaanii
magar mujhako lautaa do bachapan kaa saavan
vo kaagaz kii kashtii, vo baarish kaa paanii

It took me back in time to the heavy monsoon seasons in Bombay when the roads seemingly dissolved into huge puddles, large tubs of slush and streaming rivulets – in short, a dream playground for us kids. I still remember the desperate urgency with which we used to turn little pieces of paper into paper boats. I still remember the anticipation, the sheer thrill of watching my little paper boats float and bob up and down as they navigated their way through those little streams and rivulets that the monsoon had brought along with it. Imaginary stories about imaginary lands used to be associated with those little paper boats. Is the boat carrying a princess and her family ? Is the boat going to carry a whole load of school kids on a picnic ? Is the boat one that belongs to a fire breathing dragon ? Those little paper boats used to draw us into its magical world where we could spin our own colours and write our own stories.

Floating a paper boat on those little monsoon streams was akin to life itself. It was one of life’s lessons, if you may. Sometimes, your boat would reach its destination. Yet other times, there would be a flash of lightning, a huge rumble of clouds and the threatening roar of thunder and the downpour would intensify in an instant – soaking through the paper boat and trying to sink it. There would be desperate attempts to save our little boats and sometimes we rejoiced in the fact that we could and yet other times we sulked over the fact that we could not. So much like life itself, is it not ? We all set out like paper boats – initially just drawn in and taken over and around by the currents and the under currents and then there comes a phase in life when we discover our footing and decide to give our life a course. Some aspirations come true, some don’t. Yet, we live through them all. We still continue to make our little paper boats to float during the monsoon of our choice.

muhalle kii sabase nishaanii puraanii
vo budhiyaa jise bachche kahate the naanii
vo naanii kii baaton mein pariyon kaa deraa
vo chahare kii jhuriryon mein sadiyon kaa pheraa
bhulaae nahiin bhuul sakataa hai koi
vo chhotii sii raaten vo lambii kahaanii

kadii dhuup mein apane ghar se nikalanaa
vo chidiyaa vo bulabul vo titalii pakadanaa
vo gudiyaa kii shaadii mein ladanaa jhagadanaa
vo jhuulon se giranaa vo gir ke sambhalanaa
vo piital ke chhallon ke pyaare se tohafe
vo tuutii hui chuudiyon kii nishaanii

kabhii ret ke unche tiilon pe jaanaa
gharaunde banaanaa banaake mitaanaa
vo maasuum chahat kii tasviir apanii
vo kvaabon khilaunon kii jaagiir apanii
na duniyaa kaa gam thaa na rishton ke bandhan
badii khuubasuurat thii vo zindagaanii

Which one of us does not remember those long summer vacations which stretched idly along for a long month and a half ? Friends gathering after a heavy afternoon lunch was quite the norm. Those little card games which used to get rather boisterous as they progressed, those games of hide and seek under the warm gaze of the afternoon sun which left us looking tanned and browned. There used to be times when one of the other houses in the building was undergoing repairs and if that was the case, our day was made. It was a bonus beyond description. All that sand, all that cement, all those stacks of bricks lying around – what better toys could one ask for. We would gather around and “make” our own house. Make believe, it was but yet again the pure pleasure of imagination and the sheer thrill of getting carried away and caught up as one of the characters in a fictional story – one which was our own creation – was exhilarating.

I remember those days when, after a long afternoon of playing with the sand and bricks, we would all trudge back home for milk and snacks, looking all dusty, grubby and sooty. We used to be grimy from head to toe, yet we used to walk back home with a feeling of supreme satisfaction.
I remember the times when we used to vacation in Kerala during the long summer breaks from school. Households in Kerala where two, three families live together leads to this huge beehive like situation – there are the elderly bees who take care of the younger bees. At that point of time in my life, I was part of the younger bee brood. In the afternoon, whenever we used to proclaim that we were hungry, one of the other grandmothers in the household (there seemed to be plenty of them around then) would have us sit in a circle. They would then mash up rice alongwith yoghurt and salt in a huge vessel. By then, we would have washed our grubby hands and would be sitting in a semi circle of sorts, with our arms outstretched, palms open and waiting. Waiting for those little balls of yoghurt rice to be placed on our hands, that small ball of yoghurt rice with a little piece of pickle on top, those little balls of yoghurt rice which tasted absolutely divine right then. In the course of this “afternoon snack” we would be entertained with stories – some mythological, some imaginary and we would be transported to another world altogether.

Michael Chabon once said
I found one remaining box of comics which I had saved. When I opened it up and that smell came pouring out, that old paper smell, I was struck by a rush of memories, a sense of my childhood self that seemed to be contained in there.

That is precisely what this song did, to me. All those carefree times in childhood, all wrapped up just by that one song ! Jagjit Singh sums it up beautifully when he says “na duniyaa ka gham than na rishton ke bandhan, badi khubsoorat thi voh zindagaani, badi khubsoorat thi voh zindagaani”.