Granted, when I ask my standard “How do you cook that?”, I sometimes get a perplexed look, but as soon as you convince them that you are not a psycho, people open up. I have noticed that most people love to talk about food, especially if you seem sincerely interested in their ethnic cuisine. Last week was not a waste, as I waited in line at the fish counter in an Asian supermarket, I saw an Indian woman buying a whole live cat fish. She asked for it to be hacked into small byte size pieces and that sparked my interest. Surely she was not going to fry it Southern style? I asked what she intended to do with it, and after she got over the initial shock of a red-headed creature in sweats asking her stupid questions, she gave me a wonderful recipe for a traditional Indian fish stew with lentils ( I suspect it is a version of Daal but can’t be sure). A few minutes later I saw a man ordering up some Milk fish, which I was eyeing, but new nothing off, so I asked. I got another great recipe for this firm fleshed fish poached in coconut milk and spices. I am thoroughly convinced that the best recipes do not come from cookbooks; they come from people whose moms and grandmothers made these dishes since the beginning of time.
Browsing the same Asian supermarket, I stumble onto some kumquats and some beautifully perfect hot peppers. I can’t tell you what type of chili these were, because there are over 4000 types of chili peppers in the world, and these were labeled with hieroglyphs (which must have reflected the real name) and English translation of simply “Long Hot Peppers”… Sometimes I think these English translations are meant to mock the average English speaking person… like if you don’t know what it is and cannot read whatever language, you have no business being in this store… not that I care. I am adventures, I will try anything, once due to this bad labeling I ended up with a sauce that smelled like rotten eggs and decomposing flesh all at once… the label simply said “Vietnamese sauce for vegetables”.
So back to the peppers and kumquats, both looked so good that I bought them along with four large Pompano fish which I intended to roast. The peppers, fruit and a few other ingredients looked so good and colorful together that I thought of roasting the fish using them all. It is hard to ruin a whole roasted fish. This dish came out phenomenal, the fish was scented with citrus, with a slight heat from the chilies and it looked beautiful.
Whole roasted Pompano with Kumquats and Chilies
4 Pompano fish, head and tail on, just gutted and cleaned
1 large yellow onion sliced thin
Handful of parsley
Handful of cilantro
1 lemon sliced thin
1 lime sliced thin
A handful of kumquats sliced thin
1 or two hot red chili peppers sliced thin
1 inch knob of fresh ginger sliced thin
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with sliced onions,
parsley and cilantro.
Pre-slice all the components so that you are all set up to stuff the
Season each fish inside with salt and pepper and stuff with a slice of lemon, slice of lime, ginger, kumquats and chilies.
Drizzle the outside of the fish on both sides with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place the fish on the bed of onions and herbs and scatter the remaining ingredients all over the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through and opaque. I like to turn on the broiler for the last 3 minutes of cooking to crisp up the skin. Serve whole.