In the memories of Phu Yen’s old men, there was always soapfish in the last season of the year. It is a type of shark which has the-one-and-only delicious skin. In the old days, whenever a soapfish was caught, most of its meat would be sold and only a small part of the fish was saved for the children because the meat was very useful in curing dermatological diseases. Its skin, unlike that of other large fishes which was discarded, was dried and saved for later uses. Sadly, this type of fish can barely be found now because of many reasons. In recent days, people may only buy dried fish skin from the market whenever they want to recreate the dish and recall the old times. The fish skin is only a by-product so its price is rather low. It may be easy and pleasant to eat the crisp-tender fish skin, but it is very time-consuming and definitely not easy at all to get rid of its fishy smell. Judge Chiem Thanh Long remarked that the dishes of the poor in the old days were delicacies created with the skillfulness of the chefs. And only by using some ingredients which can easily be found in the garden could the chef create a fish skin salad that might be enjoyed with pleasure until satisfied.
FISH SKIN SALADPrint This
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE FISH SKIN
- 100g dried shark fish skin
- 100g green mangoes
- 50g carrots
- 50g onions
- 50g celery
- 100g banana blossom, finely sliced
- 10g perilla leaves
- 10g Vietnamese cilantro leaves
- 50g dry roasted peanuts
- 50g ginger
- 30ml rice wine
- 10g garlic
- 1 lime
- 2 grilled rice paper
- 15ml cooking oil
- 5ml fish sauce
- 10g red cayenne pepper
- INGREDIENTS FOR THE SALAD DRESSING
- 30ml fish sauce
- 50ml lime extract
- 80g sugar
- 5g salt
- 10g minced garlic
- 10g ginger, cut into shoestrings
- 5g minced red chili
Preparation: Soak the fish skin in water with 20g smashed ginger, the extract of one lime and 15ml rice wine for 24 hours. When the skin has swollen, take them out and remove all the meat that still sticks on the inside of the fish skin. Then boil them in water with 20g smashed ginger and 15ml rice wine for 5 minutes. Take them out, then gently squeeze and clean them for several times to remove the entire fishy odor and drain them thoroughly. Peel off the green mangoes, then clean and drain them. After that, cut them into shoestrings, about 5mm thick. Thinly slice the banana blossom, then clean and drain them. Peel off the onions and cut them into rings. Remove the leaves and the ripe part of the celery, clean, then cut them into strings. Peel off the carrots, cut them into strings; mince the garlic; clean, then drain the Vietnamese cilantro leaves and the perilla leaves, then chop them thoroughly. Thinly cut the remaining ginger into strings.
Process: After having prepared the fish skin, cut them into pieces, about 5cm long. Put the saucepan on the stove and add 15ml cooking oil, wait until the oil is heated, then add the minced garlic and the shoestring-cut ginger and deepfry them, finally add the fish skin and quickly stir-fry them. Continue to add 15ml rice wine and stir-fry them on low heat to remove the fishy odor, finally add 5ml fish sauce and stir-fry them until they have a savory smell. Allow the fish skin to marinate thoroughly, then turn off the heat, transfer the fish skin to a bowl and leave them to cool down.
Make the salad dressing: With a spoon, stir 80g sugar and 5g salt in 50ml lime extract until the sugar disappears. Continue to add 30ml fish sauce and stir continuously to attain a gelatinous fish sauce mixture, season it to taste then add the minced garlic, chili and ginger and stir them constantly.
Mix the salad: Put the mangoes, carrots, celery, onions, perilla leaves, Vietnamese cilantro leaves, thinly-sliced banana blossom, chili threads and fish skin into a bowl, then slowly spoon over the dressing and slightly mix them until all the spices are mixed; finally, season to taste.
Transfer the salad to a plate, sprinkle the roasted peanuts over the top of the dish and serve with grilled rice paper and sweet and sour fish sauce.
The fish skin is crackling crisp without being smelly or chewy. The vegetables and the mangoes should be fresh and crunchy. The salad should be thoroughly marinated with the spices, the fruit and vegetables should retain most of their juice. The salad should have a sweet and sour taste.
Only mix the salad just before serving immediately to prevent the salad from secreting too much juice to keep the vegetables crispy-tender.
Slowly spoon the dressing over the salad so that it won’t be too salty. Adjust the dressing to taste.
The fish skin can be prepared well in advance and kept in the fridge until the mixing time to save time.
EFFECTS OF THIS DISH
This dish provides lots of substances which are essential for our body, such as collagen, minerals, vitamin C, unsaturated fat, and anti-oxidative stress active substances. Therefore, this dish is very good for people with asthenia, loss of appetite, constipation, anemia, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and obesity; it also prevents cancer and cardiovascular problems.
NGUYEN VAN BONG Kaya Hotel (Phu Yen Province) Runner-up in the Southern Regional semi-final round of the Golden Spoon Awards 2013