During the holiday break, I had the downtime to try some new recipes from a few of the new cookbooks I got. So I flipped through the pages of Alan Wong’s “The Blue Tomato” cookbook and landed on his Singapore-style Coconut-Kim Chee-Curry Seafood Stew recipe.
I love the idea of Singapore. I love kim chee, the spicy Korean fermented cabbage. And I love seafood. I was so winning.
One of the things I learned reading the recipes from Wong, a James Beard Award-winning chef of one of Honolulu’s more well-known restaurant, is that he’s a very precise man. His details produce restaurant-quality dishes, especially in the beginning pages where he gives recipes for appetizers that look like they came from, well, a James Beard Award-winning kitchen.
Wong’s cookbook also emphasizes the use of local ingredients, which is why many of the recipes spotlights seafood since he’s cooking in Hawaii. So when reading the recipes’ ingredients, you have to constantly be thinking of substitutions for ingredients you’d find in your area. (For example, he uses Lehi, a short-tailed pink snapper, but I substituted with halibut, which was easier to find here.)
The first challenge for me was finding Tokyo negi, which I’d never cooked with but apparently is a household ingredient for the Japanese. Living in the Bay Area, I easily found Tokyo negi at the Nijiya market in Japantown. Tokyo negi is like a large version of spring onions or green onions, but supposedly with a sweeter taste, almost like miniature leeks.
For the recipe, you prepare the curry and then pour it into a saucepan where you cook a fish filet with Manila clams. (See, it’s like you’re cooking in a professional restaurant kitchen.) Despite the fact that Wong is so specific in his recipes (he even tells you to cut the carrots into matchsticks measuring 1/8” x 1/8” x 2”), he doesn’t really tell you how long to cook the curry after adding all the ingredients. So I basically just cooked it for about 20 minutes to let the carrots and Tokyo negi soften and add flavor to the curry.
In the end, I thought the entire dish tasted great with the curry having a nice kick from the Madras curry. This is the kind of dish that’s perfect for the winter. Plus, when plated, the dish totally looks like a restaurant entrée.
Here’s the recipe with adjustments by me to make just two to three servings (Wong’s recipe makes enough for more than six servings).
Singapore-style Coconut-Kim Chee-Curry Seafood Stew
Adapted from Alan Wong’s “The Blue Tomato” cookbook (2010 Watermark Publishing)
1 T canola oil
1/2 t minced ginger
1/2 t minced garlic
1 cup 1/4-inch slices white onion (sliced on the grain)
1 T Madras curry powder
1/2 cup extra-rich coconut milk (I used coconut cream)
1 T fish sauce
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup 1/8” x 1/8” x 2” carrot matchsticks
1/2 cup 1/4-inch diagonal slices Tokyo negi, white part only
6 oz. kim chee
6 oz. short-tail pink snapper or halibut (a white fish that will stay moist in the cooking)
1 lb. fresh clams
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil
rice for serving
Making the broth
In a large saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger. Stir for 10 seconds, then add the onions and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in the Madras curry, then the coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, carrots, Tokyo negi and kim chee. (Wong doesn’t say so, but reduce heat the simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the carrots are soften.)
Preparing the seafood
Cut the fish into two equal filets. Wong says to place the fish in the sauté pan. But I like to have a nice color to the fish so I add some canola oil in the sauté pan and warm the pan over high heat to briefly sear the fish (about a minute), then I flip the fish over with the browned side up and then add the clams. Add enough of the curry broth until the fish filets are just covered and cook over medium high heat, about 3 to 5 minutes.
When the fish and clams are cooked, transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Remove and discard any unopened clams. Add the cilantro and basil to the broth in the saucepan and adjust seasoning with salt.
Place a scoop of rice in individual serving bowls. Place a piece of fish on top of the rice. Ladle the curry stew and clams around the rice. Serve immediately.
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