Mama gave us a three-level steamer last September when she visited. Since then, I've just used it for steamed Lapu-Lapu, steamed carrots and steamed rice.
Last weekend, I decided to make frequent trips to the New Public Market of San Jose and learn about local fish from the fishmongers. I will buy fish, steam them, and try them! Steamed fish is the best way to taste fish!
The fishermen usually arrive at about 4:00P.M. with their day's catch, and the market will be alive and bustling with the noises of huge knives splitting large tuna, the grating of heavy pails and crates filled with ice and fish against the pavement and the banging of the aluminum trays against the weighing scales. All the hype will die down after an hour, and the catch will last up to about noon the next day. So off we went: Elise, Nacho and I.
The fish section was wet. But it was NOT smelly. Elise said the air smelled a little sweet, like sweet smelling fish, good enough to eat. Nacho's eyes were wide open and he was talking nonstop about all the different shapes and colors of everything.
Saw some eel. Unagi! Can't steam that.
Some "mulmol", sometimes called "loro" or parrot fish were available. But they're endangered, so I did not have the heart to buy them. Although I heard that when they are grilled over a charcoal fire, they are very tasty, and the the liver is especially delicious. But then again, NO! They are endangered!
Saw some "pagi" or mantarays. They are usually cooked in coconut milk, but I wasn't sure how. Besides, I tasted some before and did not really love them...
Saw some "karatungan". Looked like rock fish, but I was not sure. The fish's back was covered with spines, which you have to pull out with tweezers as part of the preparation process. But the meat, they said, is very tender. I wasn't up to the spine-pulling preparation, so we skipped that.
I asked the fishmonger what fish is good to steam, and she pointed to some "kanuping" or "isdang bato", and at P100 per kilo, two good sized ones found their way to my cutting board...
...and to our steamer, along with some ginger and leeks and all those good stuff. Okra and tomatoes went on the first level of the steamer, and the rice went on the second level. A complete meal in one cooking appliance!
The meat was so firm and tender. The taste was so, so clean, with no aftertaste. The skin was thick, and it easily came off, I almost peeled it from the cooked fish. I suspect that this fish would also be good when skinned, filleted and used for fish 'n' chips or fish sticks, or with some sort of oyster sauce-shitake mushroom sauce.
We enjoyed our simple meal with all the condiments! Toyo (soy sauce), calamansi (Philippine lemon), siling labuyo (red chili pepper), suka (vinegar), and bagoong (fish paste)!