I’ve used soy sauce about a thousand and one different ways, but until recently I’d never thought to try poaching things in it. As it turns out, soy sauce mixed with an equal amount of water and spiked with the usual-suspect ingredients–honey, ginger, garlic, chili and scallions–makes a terrific cooking medium for a good piece of fish. Or, in my case, a mushy hunk of frozen salmon that had reached the use-or-toss point.
This might have been one of the best-smelling dishes I’ve ever made.
I kept leaning my head over the pan to get whiffs of soy and spice and ginger and garlic. As the fish poached, the liquid took on some of its meatiness; as a sensory bonus, it also tinted the fish a a soft wood-toned brown. Once the fish was cooked, I was surprised at how subtle the flavors were; the flesh of the fish came through loud and clear, with the poaching liquid lingering quietly in the background. Sam and I ate the salmon on its own, with some of the liquid spooned over the top, but I wished the entire time for a fluffy pile of brown rice to drink up more of the spicy-salty-sweet sauce.
As I said, I used salmon here, but this would be a terrific cooking technique for almost any fish. Mark Bittman recommends a firm-fleshed white fish: you could use striped bass, snapper, halibut, mahi mahi, or tilapia. If you prefer a richer-flavored fish, try catfish, mackerel, swordfish, trout or sablefish (aka black cod).
Soy-Poached Fish (serves 4)
Adapted, barely, from The Minimalist
1/2 cup soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
1/2 cup water, plus more as needed
2 tsp honey
3-4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the back of a knife
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced OR 1/4 tsp dried red chili flake (optional)
About 1 1/2 lb fish fillets or steaks (see the post above for suggestions)
1 bunch (about 15) scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Cooked brown rice, for serving
In a skillet just large enough to hold the fish, combine soy sauce, water, honey, garlic, ginger, and sliced jalapeno or chili flake (if using). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then place the fish in the skillet, skin side up (if there is a skin side). If needed, add a little more water to come most of the way up the sides of the fish. Scatter the scallions around the fish in the skillet.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, turning the fish every couple of minutes, until it’s cooked through–cooking times will vary depending on what fish you’re using. When a thin-bladed knife goes easily into the thickest part of the fish, it’s done. (If you’re using salmon, the knife should still meet a little bit of resistance in the middle.)
To serve, transfer the fish to a bed of brown rice. Spoon some of the poaching liquid over the top, and garnish with scallions from the pan. Yum.