If there is one thing I've come to learn about people, or most people I should say, is that the majority of us relate specific instances or individuals to our favorite foods. Greg on one hand, is rather fond of his sweets. Particularly those in the form of cinnamon rolls, the sweeter the better. You know the kind. The all too familiar Pillsbury dough that's been skillfully compressed into a tin and and whilst prying one of those open might induce some kind of an exhilaration for most folks, for me, opening said entity means keeping it at a safe distance because I don't like loud surprises, you see. I do get a bit anxious when it comes to jack in the boxes, too.
So Greg relates those first glutinous, cinnamony bites to breakfasts with his mom, times of deep conversations or when waking up to those rolls suggested a simple 'I love you' in terms of her own motherly language.
I understand completely how Greg feels. I never knew that my own mother's love language was to provide a full meal on the table every single day, morning, day, and night. It was what she did. Or so I thought. While I shamefully admit that I thought it was a prerequisite for her job description on top of working full time, since I had unfortunately grown to take her cooking for granted over the years, I now realize how blessed I've been to revel in her provisions all along.
All those nagging tips and tricks on how to properly flip a fish in the pan, the unofficial cooking lessons she gave me each morning, many of which I pretended not to pay any attention to, the times that she would grab a fistful of flour saying that she doesn't need a measuring cup--a fact that much to my chagrin, is still found to be disturbing in my baker's heart of hearts--have actually come in handy.
Fish was one such entree that needed to grace the table once a day, if not every other day. Her specialties have always been fish stew (dong-tae-jji-gae), grilled mackerel (godeung-oh-goo-ee), spicy stir fried octopus (ohjing-oh-bokkeum), and this right here. Even up until this day, she makes sure to prepare stewed fish for me and my sister when we pay a visit to her house. She normally opts for my favorite variety which is mackerel. Since the recipe is truly simple and versatile to work with, you can use most fish like cod and tilapia, and although tilapia is what I used in this recipe, I highly recommend going out of the way to find mackerel at the local grocer. Something about the fatty quality of mackerel and its mightily 'full-bodied' smell, which some may refer to as wangy for lack of better term, complements the sweet spicy sauce used in this staple Korean entree.
Although stewed fish is often featured as a gourmet entree in most popular Korean restaurants, they usually expect double the price of what you would pay for the ingredients themselves, assuming you already have a few of them on hand. I am also curious to know...which entree or side dish graced your dinner table on a regular basis?
Spicy Korean Stewed Fish (yang-nyeom saeng-sun jo-reem)
Serves 2 || my mother's recipe
Time: approximately 40 minutes
Equipment: medium sized wok or pot, small mixing bowl, spoon, spatula or tongs, good knife for filleting fish in the middle (optional)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar (or granulated)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp red pepper flakes (Korean gochugaru)
1 tbsp red pepper paste (Korean gochujang)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 1 1/4 cups water
2-3 green onions, sliced
1 cup daikon radish, sliced in semi circles
2 large fish like tilapia or mackerel, rinsed
Heat a wok or pot over medium fire. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, sugar, oil, gochugaru, gochujang, and minced garlic in a small bowl. Add the sauce into the heated wok followed by water. Stirring a few times with a spoon, let it come to a gentle simmer on low-medium fire, add green onions, radish slices, and cover with a lid for about 5-7 minutes or so, until sauce begins to thicken ever so slightly and radish softens just a bit.
This particular step is optional. Cut horizontally into the fish avoiding the bones, leaving the top fin of the fish intact. You don't want it to split completely but you want it to hold together. This is merely for the flavors to permeate through and through the fish. Add the fish to the sauce and cover it completely with a spoon. Cook each side for approximately 8 minutes on low-medium fire, until the flesh is flaky and sauce has thickened. Serve with rice, side dishes like seasoned spinach or seasoned eggplant, or even a simple side of soup.
Note: The sauce should be brownish red and plentiful all around the fish, something that I failed to capture in my photos here.