Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Cockroach Catcher and Pompano

In about a week’s time, fish will start migrating from the warmer waters of the tropics to more temperate waters in search of food. So will the Pompanos.
“……Mother always bought fresh fish from the market, often a Pompano which when fresh has tender flesh with a delicate flavour and makes a popular Teochiu dish. It is perhaps very apt that the first fish I caught... some forty-five years later was none other than a Pompano……”

Pompano caught 45 years later.
Pompano is a favourite fish for the average fisherman as it can be caught on a light tackle and it gives a good fight for the weight of the fish. It is a quick maturing fish and as such do not tend to pick up mercury. In the US it is one of the highest priced gourmet marine fish on the market and for a good reason. It is a delicate fish in terms of texture and flavour.

The classic Teochiu way of cooking Pompano is to simply steam it in with sliced ginger and spring onion. What makes it special is the addition of Teochiu urn preserved mustard green. This ingredient imparts a distinctive delicate flavour that my parents loved. I suppose it reminded them of the home village they left behind.
Another great way to prepare the Pompano is to wok-sear it. This is very similar to pan-searing that is now fashionable. The best fat for searing this fish is Goose Fat, but if it is not available then chicken fat is a good enough substitute. It has to be from good quality free range chicken though. We usually finish the searing with ginger, spring onion and soy sauce.

I can nearly taste it now.

Artistic rendition of Pompano - (Trachinotus carolinus) in Aruba

The best wine to go with Pompano is Pinot-gris from Alsace and my favourite vignerons are Hugel & Fils and Dopff and Irion in the quaint Alsace village of Riquewihr. As Pompano is delicate in flavour you need a wine with a nice firm flavour and a balanced acidity to go with it. There is no need to pick a very acidic wine. I particularly like Dopff and Irion's Sporen Tokay Pinot-gris. It fits the bill perfectly. It is subtle yet complex in flavour and will not over-power the fish like some heavily oaked chardonnays will.

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