I’m a firm believer that some of the best dishes are discovered by accident. This dish was born out of a near disaster. I was cooking for a VIP event in the middle of nowhere when disaster struck.
We had portioned and marinated a few sablefish fillets in a sweet miso sauce the day before but upon testing a piece shortly before service, it became clear that something was very wrong with the fish. It wasn’t spoiled, but the texture was unpleasantly mushy and with less than 10 minutes to go till service we decided not to serve it. I ran to the walk-in and managed to find some fresh bass fillets which I handed over to a cook to portion and pan-fry while I figured out a sauce.
Since the sides were geared towards something Asian, I decided to stick with the theme and started mincing some scallions, garlic and and ginger. With the fish almost ready to go and hungry guests waiting, I grabbed a bottle of chinese rice wine, a bottle of soy sauce and some balsamic vinegar and poured them into the pan in equal proportions.
The thought was that the sugars in the balsamic would help give the sauce a nice sheen while providing some mild acidity. Just as the fish was being plated on platters, the sauce started to thicken and I knew it was done.
Sauced and garnished, the servers picked up the platters of bass and headed to the dining room, which was around the time I realized I hadn’t tasted the sauce. The next few minutes were tense, but soon the platters returned completely empty, save a few scraggly sprigs of cilantro. Lunch was a hit and I’d narrowly averted a disaster.
A few months later I tried the dish again at home and beyond taking 10 minutes to make, it was genuinely good. With moist flaky fish glazed in an earthy sauce that’s redolent of ginger and garlic, it’s a treat for all your senses.
For the fish, any flaky white meat fish will do: cod, halibut or striped bass all work great. I’ve opted to pan-fry the fish because it’s easier than steaming, but if you want to make this healthier, just steam the fish instead.
Cod with Soy Balsamic Glaze
- 400 grams white meat fish
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 17 grams ginger (1/2-inch piece)
- 8 grams garlic (1 large clove)
- 45 grams scallion white part only (~3 scallions)
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or any dry rice wine)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- cilantro (for garnish)
- Lightly salt and pepper the fish.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the fish, flipping halfway through. You could also steam the fish if you prefer.
- When the fish is cooked through, plate it and then wipe out the pan.
- Turn the heat up to high and add the sesame oil to the pan along with the ginger, garlic and scallions. Saute until very fragrant and the aromatics start to brown.
- Add the Shaoxing, soy sauce and vinegar and boil until the sauce starts to thicken.
- Pour the sauce over the fish and garnish with cilantro.
Yield: 2 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.