Can’t Get Any Fresher Than That! (Fresh Fish – 5 ways)

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After almost 10 years of dating and marriage, the day I’ve been waiting for all these years had finally come. Scotch returned home from a day of fishing with an ACTUAL FISH!

And not just one but TWO!

Not that he doesn’t normally succeed in catching fish when he’s out fishing but he is in the habit of catch and release. A very honorable habit, don’t get me wrong. From a young age, he grew up fly fishing on the beautiful rivers of Scotland (Orkney, Spey, Tay…) and then when he moved to the US, he frequented the rivers in the Northeast with some time spent fly fishing in Florida, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica.

I’m all for sustainable fish stocks, sustainable recreation, sustainable farming, and, well, sustainability in general. But deep down, I’ve always harbored the idea of eating freshly-caught fish. I’m not talking about the fishmonger netting a live fish out of his fish tank.

I’m talking about going out with a rod and a reel, catching a fish, and eating it right there and then – sashimi style, bbq’d on the boat or dock, any way I can get it fresh. Now I don’t want to be the person doing the actual fishing though – I’ve tried that and it’s boring and hard work at the same time. Boring to sit there and wait for fish to bite and hard work on the arms when you finally get to reel in a fish. And I think the yummier the fish, the harder they fight!

Scotch recently went out with Soolyman Sportfishing Charters with some work colleagues for deep sea fishing in Fujairah, which is an Emirate on the East cost of the UAE about 1.5 hours drive from Dubai. Although it wasn’t his preferred method of catching fish (he’s a fly fisherman, remember?) he was just happy to be out on the sea, on a boat, and holding a rod and reel.

Wee Scotch and I hung out at the pool in Le Meridien Al Aqah for the day and when we met up with Scotch later that evening, he was carrying fish bounty in his hands – Rainbow Runner and Dorado. The boat captain was kind enough to do the cleaning, filleting and packing the fish on ice so that it would make it on the journey back to Dubai.

Freshly caught fish – Can’t get fish any fresher than that!

By the time we arrived home, it was late, practically 10pm, and we were very tired from being out all day. But we were also very hungry and for the whole ride home I kept dreaming about eating those fish fillets.

The thought of eating it completely raw, sashimi style, did briefly cross my mind. But I wanted something cooked and comforting so I opted for my fish in a bag method instead.

(1) Steamed Fish à  la “Fish in a Bag”

Fish in a Bag

This is such an easy and versatile way of preparing fish that I am always able to adapt it to whatever is in my fridge.

That night, I used baby potatoes (thinly sliced) as the bottom layer, then placed the fish on top, scattered cherry tomatoes, and drizzled a vinaigrette of lemon and white wine. I baked the packets for 25 minutes (to ensure the potatoes were cooked enough but still had a slight bite) and they were ready to be devoured by the time we finished tidying the kitchen and putting Wee Scotch to bed.

(2 & 3) Ceviche and Kilawin

There are a few things that come to my mind when it comes to fresh fish – sashimi and ceviche. Ceviche is something I really enjoy eating but have never gotten around to doing it mostly because I didn’t trust the freshness of the fish here. Well, here was a perfect opportunity.

I was also very keen on trying Kilawin again, the Filipino version of ceviche, from my Come Dine With Me experience.

With Ceviche, the raw fish is “cooked” by the acidity of the lemon or lime juice while in Kilawin, the raw fish is “cooked” by the use of vinegar.

I decided to set up a little taste test to see if there was any version that I particularly preferred – ceviche or kilawin? I cut both the dorado and rainbow runner into small pieces and placed a little bit of each in two different bowls. To one bowl I added freshly squeezed lime juice to cover the fish and to the other bowl I used distilled white vinegar.

I placed the bowls in the fridge while I prepared the other ingredients – diced red onion, roughly chopped cilantro, and chopped tomato.

I allowed the fish to be cooked (basically, the proteins are denatured by the acidity of the citrus juice and vinegar in their respective bowls) for 30-45 minutes. Then I took the bowls of fish out of the fridge, drained the liquid out, and mixed in the onion, tomato, and cilantro into both bowls of fish.

Ceviche and Kilawin
Ceviche and Kilawin

I had Scotch taste both versions without telling him what I had done and asked him to tell me which version he preferred. He liked the vinegar one better. I have to agree with him.

The one that was marinated in lime seemed too limey (blimey!) and overpowered the fish flavor. Perhaps I left the lime juice in too long but it was still very tastey good.

(4) Sashimi and Sushi (Spicy Dorado Rolls)

While I was chopping up the dorado, it looked so much like tuna sashimi that I couldn’t help but pop a few cubes in my mouth. Mmm, it was good. Then curiosity got the better of me and I popped a cube of the rainbow runner into my mouth as well – it was also very good. More delicate than the dorado but still delish. So soft, so fresh.

Don’t kill me sashimi purists out there, but I pulled out my bottle of Kikoman soy sauce and dipped a few more pieces of dorado in it. Yum! It had the texture of tuna and tasted similar. If only I had wasabi and pickled ginger.

Which got me thinking that it would be lovely to make spicy dorado maki/rolls with the remainder of the dorado. I just had to run downstairs to the store to get some sushi rice and wasabi…

…Done! (wow, the magic of blogging 😉 )

I here present to you my spicy dorado rolls and dorado sashimi:

Sushi Sashimi

This was my third time (but second successful attempt) at making sushi and first time making an inside out roll (where the rice is on the outside of the seaweed instead of inside) and it was actually a lot of fun – probably because I had an idea of what I was doing (unlike the previous times) and also because I was popping “taste samples” into my mouth as I was rolling and cutting the sushi.

I mixed Sriracha sauce with mayonnaise to make the spicy dressing for the dorado and found some black sesame seeds and spicy Japanese condiment in my cupboard for sprinkling on the rolls.

Eating Sushi

The maki rolls were fabulously delicious! I couldn’t be more pleased with myself for having something turn out so successful without using a recipe.

Well, I did use a recipe for the sushi rice, but besides that, everything was improvised based on what I like from previous sushi eating experiences.

And! The best part was not having to pay 200+ dirhams ($55) per kilogram of sashimi-grade fish at the market. Or even more $$$ at a restaurant.

(5) Spicy Fish Pickle

By the third day, Scotch and I couldn’t eat any more fish but we still had a small piece of rainbow runner left. I couldn’t fathom freezing it since it wasn’t substantial enough.

As I stared at the piece of fish in the fridge, wondering what I could possible do with it, my eye caught sight of a jar of homemade spicy fish pickle from my blogger friend Rajani of Pickle-in-d-Middle. I had already devoured all the fish in the pickle within days of buying it but I loved the smell of the spice ingredients so much, I’ve kept the jar (devoid of fish but full of all the pickling spices) in my fridge so I could open it to release and inhale the tangy-spicy-gingery aromas when the mood struck. It was seriously that good.

And so I wondered if I could pickle my own fish as well? Would it be blasphemy to pickle fresh fish? But the point of pickling is to preserve unused fish, right?

I didn’t have much fish left, maybe 4 ounces (125 g). But I thought I’d give it a try.

Fish Pickle
My homemade fish pickle

I googled a recipe and settled on this one which I mostly followed but omitted the 2 cups of sunflower oil and the green chillies.

I enjoyed the taste of the spice combinations and of course the tang of the vinegar which mellowed out the second day and would probably had continued to mellow but I loved the pickle so much that I ate it all so there was no third day.

Fish Pickle 2

*     *     *     *     *

Wee Scotch loves eating sushi rolls and he’s even had tuna and salmon sashimi. This was the first time he tried dorado sashimi but I think he preferred the rolls even though they were spicy.

He has a propensity for drinking milk when something is too spicy (which I may have innocently instigated but now purposely exploit when I need him to fulfill his milk quota of the day) but after the fiery flavors are tamed in his mouth, he more often than not goes for another bite and them some more.

“That’s spicy yummy, Mama!”

Let’s hope it won’t be another 10 years before my next freshly caught fish from Scotch. I’m already dreaming up what I can make!

What would you do with it?

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  1. I so love the aroma of pickling spices too! Thanks for pointing me to the fish pickle recipe – looks very interesting, a must try!

  2. Glad to read about your pouch method. I did it for the first time recently (with some cod) and it came out kind of bland but I'm not deterred! I like the idea of putting the potatoes in there too. It reminds me of a fancy version of "hobo dinners." My husband grew up with these and introduced them to me – you put your meat, potatoes and some seasoning in aluminum foil and cook on an open fire outside. Kind of a camping thing. I haven't quite figured out how to make the original hobo dinner more interesting though.

    1. Thank you for the feedback. You may need to add a little more salt to the fish if the taste was bland. When I do Asian fish-in-a-bag, the soy sauce is quite salty already so I don't normally add any extra salt but not all soy sauces are the same.

  3. Sounds like lots of fun, I really like Le Meridien Al Aqa, nice to break…

    That Ceviche bowl looks delicious I want to dive in it lol, and would do anything to be wee scotch right now devouring those rolls YUM… Totally enjoyed your post Sandy, can I come over for dinner tomorrow (Left overs are fine with me) lol

  4. Please tell me where you find siracha sauce in Dubai? I have to carry back bottles from the US and always afraid of a hot sauce explosion in my suitcase! Thank you

  5. i like eating kilawin but I really don't like sushi. Anyway, the foods are really delicious.. Thanks for sharing this! Good job!

  6. Really interesting and instructive post Sandy. I am particularly impressed that you made the maki – I must try this myself soon – and that you turned round and made supper after a day in Fujairah! Wee Scotch's pleasure at digging into food is such a joy to witness.

  7. See we'd make a great team: I love fishing but can't cook it to save my life. I smell a vacation! PS Wee Scotch is getting so big!

    1. LOL! I think you are the first girl I've heard say that about fishing – enjoying it that is 🙂 Fishing season must be coming up soon with Spring approaching?

      I wish I could get into it but I really do enjoy the cooking and eating part more! And yes, Wee Scotch is getting big and quite a handful now with his toddler tantrums!

  8. Sandy, this post was such a joy to read. I love how you're able to type out your thoughts so coherently.

    Fishing can be quite boring (I'm also very bad at it) but I will keep joining my family and friends on fishing trips until I, one day, finally catch my own fish!

    Maybe it's because I'm so obsessed with sashimi but my favorite part of your post is your sashimi. It looks so delicate. If you didn't tell us, I'd think you ordered it from a restaurant. Awesome job! And what's sashimi without dipping it in soy sauce? Purists are boring 😛

  9. Ohhhh! You had kilawin 🙂 My dad loves to make kilawin at home especially when he comes across really fresh fish in the market…Our recipe is basically the same BUT he adds fresh coconut milk to entire vinegar, chili, ginger and cucumber mixture. Try adding the coconut milk and let me know what you think 🙂

    Oh, kilawin I think is one of the best beach / seaside dishes ever 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip Didi! I actually don't like coconut flavored things so probably wouldn't add it to my own recipe but would be willing to try it if someone else made it 😉