Taiwan has a lot of beautiful scenic places with poetic names. One place which I visited recently is Xiangtian (“Facing the Sky”) Lake in Nanzhuang, Maoli County. While we were waiting for the bus, we spied several small shacks next to the bus stop selling “Maqaw Eggs”. What in the world are Maqaw eggs? It turns out Maqaw 马 告 (pinyin “Ma Gao”) is a kind of wild peppercorn that is famous in Miaoli’s aboriginal cuisine. Its scientific name is Litsea Cubeba, a plant native to Taiwan, China and Indonesia. Its fruit produces a lemony essential oil which is used in soaps and its seeds are used in cooking. The stall was selling hard boiled Chinese tea eggs specially flavored with Maqaw so we naturally had to try them (they were delicious!) as well as Maqaw peppercorn seeds. The proprietor convinced me that they are very expensive in New York specialty stores but it’s a good price at Xiangtian Lake because they are locally grown. Not one to pass up a deal, I naturally had to buy a bottle of the fragrant wild peppercorn. It is supposed to be great for tea eggs as well as pork and fish dishes. So tonight I sprinkled some Maqaw peppercorn seeds on my cod fish and they certainly added a lovely citrony flavor to the dish.
1 piece cod fish
1 tbsp black bean and garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp hoisin sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
1/2 tbsp XO sauce
1 tbsp Maqaw peppercorn seeds
Rinse the cod fish under running water. Pat dry.
Place it on a dish, add all the ingredients on top of the fish. Steam for 10 mins or until cooked.
Sprinkle spring onions on top for garnish. Serve hot with steamed rice.
I saw this recipe in the newspaper a while ago and it reminded me of a mouthwatering dish I had eaten at a fancy Japanese restaurant. I found the original recipe a bit too sweet and too salty at the same time, so I modified the recipe by reducing the amount of miso paste and sugar. I like this version a lot better and besides cod is full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and it is wonderfully buttery when cooked. You will need a few specialty Japanese ingredients but they are worth getting and keeping in your fridge. This makes an easy, elegant dinner for guests or a quick main dish for a lazy, rainy day.
2 black cod fillets (about 1.5 to 2 cm thickness)
1/2 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp white miso paste (actually brownish in color)
1/2 tsp sugar
1. Wash and pat dry the cod fillets and put aside.
2. Line a baking dish with aluminium foil, with extra foil hanging outside the dish.
3. In a small bowl, make a paste with the sake, mirin, miso paste and sugar.
4. Brush both sides of the cod fillets with the paste and place it in the baking dish. Cover it with the remainder of the aluminium foil.
Allow the fillets to soak in the marinade in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Open the aluminium covering to expose the cod fillets and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top browns and blackens in spots.
This is one of my favorite dishes – simply because it is so easy to prepare! And it takes only 8 minutes to cook. I like to use either a red garouper or green garouper or a sesame garouper. A pomfret works well too. I also like to steam it together with tofu – makes for a more substantial meal and tofu goes so well with the steam fish gravy!
In Hong Kong street markets, the garouper is often sold live (swimming in a fish tank). You pick the one you like by pointing at the fish, then the fishmonger will scoop it up, weigh it and gives you the price. If you are ok with the price, he will de-scale and gut the fish for you.
1 piece soft tofu (optional) – cut into cubes
1 small piece of ginger – about 1/4 inch thickness – cut into narrow strips
1-2 stalks spring onion – sliced into 1 inch strips
light soy sauce or Lee Kum Kee brand flavored soy sauce for seafood
1-2 Tbsp cooking oil
1. Trim off part of the tail and all the fins.
2. Wash the fish under running water for a minute or two until there are no more water bubbles.
3. Place the fish on a plate, with sliced ginger strips on the top and arrange pieces of soft tofu around it.
4. Steam the fish and tofu for 8 minutes.
5. While the fish is in the steamer, heat up 1 or 2 Tbsp of cooking oil.
6. Check the fish after 8 minutes. It might take a bit longer if your fish is big. The fish is cooked when you poke a bit of its flesh and it is white and opaque. It is important not to overcook the fish.
7. Immediately turn off the stove. Sprinkle the spring onions on top of the fish, drizzle with soy sauce and sizzling hot cooking oil.