A quick and easy recipe for a uniquely Chinese Teochew dish, delicious steamed pomfret, with salted plums, tomatoes, salted mustard greens, shiitake mushrooms and tofu. (Adapted from source: 'Reviving Local Dialect Cuisines' by Madam Pang Nyuk Yoon)
To prepare the fish, remove fish scales and entrails (or have your local fishmonger do it for you). Rinse thoroughly to rid of all visible traces of blood. Slice 2 to 3 slits, diagonally, on each side of the fish. Pat dry and set aside.
De-seed salted plums, and set the flesh aside. Slice the salted mustard greens. Cut the tomato into 4 or 6 wedges. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water until soft and plump (about 15 minutes), drain, squeeze out the excess water, remove stems, and slice thinly. Cut the ginger, spring onion, and chilli, into shreds. Roughly chop the coriander. Drain the tofu, cut into cubes, and set aside.
Smear salt onto the body of the fish, inside the slits, and stuff the flesh of one salted plum into the stomach cavity.
In a heatproof plate, place some ginger shreds and sliced salted mustard greens, spreading them out over the plate. Place the fish on top. Spread the remaining ginger, salted mustard greens, and mushroom slices, on top of the fish. Spread the flesh of the remaining salted plum, tomato wedges, tofu cubes, and water (optional), around the sides of the fish.
Fill a wok one-quarter full with water. Place a steaming rack over the water, above the water level. Cover with wok lid, bring water to a boil over high heat. Once water is boiling, place the heatproof plate on the rack, cover with wok lid, and steam for 12 to 14 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.
Remove fish from the wok, drizzle lard or shallot oil on top, and into the broth. Garnish with coriander, chopped spring onion, and red chilli. Serve immediately, with some light soy sauce and sliced bird's eye chilli, on the side.
To reduce sodium content of this dish:
Place salted plums in a small bowl with some water, and set aside for 10 minutes, to rid of excess salt. Then use as described above.
Fill a saucepan with some water, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Put in the salted mustard greens, and let boil gently for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat, discard the water, and squeeze the salted mustard greens to remove excess water. Then, prepare and use as described above. Alternatively, simply soak the salted mustard greens in some water, set aside for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
To make shallot oil (makes slightly less than 1/4 cup):
Peel 8 to 10 shallots (or quantity of your choice), and slice thinly. Using your fingers, rub the slices to separate the rings or layers, into individual slices - this will allow for much more even frying.
Heat up 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a small saucepan, over medium fire. Once the oil is hot, add the shallot slices (fry in batches, if necessary), and fry till they turn golden brown.
Remove the fried shallots with a slotted spoon, and let drain on paper towels. The oil is now flavoured by shallots, hence, shallot oil.
The fried shallots, once cooled, should be kept in an air-tight container to retain its crispy texture. It can be used as a garnish over fried rice or fried noodles, in soups, or over your favourite vegetable stir-fries. Use the shallot oil as desired.