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Asian meal: Fried whole fish, adobo water spinach and steamed rice

Rowena Dumlao-Giardina resides in Italy, cooking and photographing her family's interesting meals on Apron and Sneakers. After moving to Italy 13 years ago from the Philippines, she has traveled extensively around the country and the res...

Learn to cook a homemade Asian meal

Have you ever wondered how to put together a complete home-cooked Asian meal? It's easy. Start with these simple recipes for whole fish, vegetables and rice.

Asian meal: Fried whole fish, adobo water spinach and steamed rice

I have been asked so many times how Asian home-cooked meals are prepared, especially those from the Philippines, from where I come originally. Regular meals are always comprised of three dishes: the main dish (which can be seafood or meat), the vegetable side dish and the rice, which is usually steamed or sometimes fried. These are served and eaten all on one plate with use of a spoon, fork (not chopsticks) and sometimes a knife to help slice tougher meats.

This whole meal is one of the simplest and least expensive that is prepared in most Asian homes.

1. Steamed rice recipe

Steamed rice recipe

A meal of adobo vegetables and fried fish calls for simple steamed white rice so that it doesn't clash with the other flavors on the plate. With the simple steps in this recipe, you can cook perfectly steamed rice as is done in any Asian home.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw rice (jasmine, basmati, carnaroli, Arborio, etc.)
  • 1-3/4 cups water (amount can be different depending on the kind of rice used)
  • Chives (optional as garnish)

Directions:

  1. Optional: Most rice nowadays doesn't need to be washed to remove the excess starch, but some still need rinsing. If you prefer to rinse the rice, then put it in a bowl, and rinse it under running water. Using your fingers, swish the rice until the water is no longer cloudy. This process can be repeated about 3 times. When the water is almost clear, drain the rice, and transfer it to a pot or rice cooker.
  2. In a thick cooking pot over high heat, mix together the rice and the water.
  3. When the water boils, immediately lower the heat to the lowest temperature, and then partially cover the pot, leaving about a 1/2-inch opening. Let the rice cook until it completely absorbs all the water, about 15 minutes.
  4. When the rice is tender and cooked, leave the cover on until you're ready to serve it.
  5. If you would like to shape the rice, then use a food shaper to press the rice tightly, and then garnish it with the chives.

2. Adobo water spinach recipe

Adobo water spinach recipe

Asian adobo, cooked with soy sauce and an acidic agent (which is usually vinegar), is an all-time favorite. Adobo is usually paired with pork or chicken, but sometimes vegetable dishes are made with the sauce, with delicious results like this one.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch (about 5 ounces) water spinach, stalks chopped to about 3 inches long and leaves separated
  • Olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Pepper
  • Salt (optional)
  • Sesame seeds (optional as garnish)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan with olive oil over medium heat, sauté the garlic for about 30 seconds, just before it gets toasted.
  2. Add the soy sauce, vinegar and water. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  3. When the sauce has reduced slightly, add the stalks of the water spinach. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Season with pepper and salt, if still needed.
  5. Add the leaves of the water spinach, and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Garnish with the sesame seeds, if using.
  7. Keep the dish warm until the fish is cooked and ready to serve.

3. Fried whole fish recipe

Fried whole fish recipe

Being served the whole fish is quite common in Asian cuisine. Frying is the usual method of cooking because it is the easiest. You just put the fish on a hot frying pan until they become crispy. There's also a grilled version that is more favored by everyone but not done on a regular basis because it takes more effort and time to prepare the grill.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds whole fish, gutted and scaled (use sea bass, halibut, grouper, cod or other similar kinds of fish)
  • Olive oil (or other kind)
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Lemon

Directions:

  1. Dry the fish well with paper towels.
  2. In a saucepan with a thin layer of oil over medium heat, fry the fish. Make sure the oil is very hot. When the bottom side of the fish is cooked or when it moves when you shake the saucepan, carefully turn it over to cook the other side.
  3. When the fish is cooked through, transfer it to a plate with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  4. To make the dipping sauce, in a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, salt and lemon juice.
  5. Serve hot with the steamed rice and adobo water spinach.

More Asian meal recipes

Asian-style chicken with garlic rice
Tonight's Dinner: Asian vegetables and potstickers
Stir-fry noodles with shrimp and vegetables

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