March 4th, 2013. Big Fatty Seafood Shop.
Feast. A waste-not fish meal.
This place was on the way to Dan Shui, way up in the northern regions of Taiwan, where my mother used to attend university. The area was quaint, a little less urbanized, but still hectic. It still emanated with the aura of localized culture and the traditional feel of Taiwan. More of that to come.
The small shop (Chinese translation: Big Fatty Seafood Shop) was our pre-university lunch visit. It seemed fairly innocuous- a nondescript fish shop that sat on the edge of a sandy parking lot, right next to a rocky beach filled with stone-shaped anchors. Under the inappropriately small awning, a bunch of towering plastic bins, ready to burst, harbored all sorts of fresh seafood that originated from the morning catch. The bins had some sort of DIY quality to them; random holes drilled everywhere, super glue in odd spots, uneven corners and warped sides, but the whole setup was, as a whole, a surprisingly effective pyramid of cold water. Constantly circulating water helps keep the fish from swimming in their own waste. (Add a vacuum bag and warmer water…and you’ve got yourself a sous-vide).
My mom said that this was an interesting spot to eat, which surprised me, since I thought it was just a fish shop. Apparently, you pick your fish, tell the owner how you want it cooked, and she’d whip it up for you after bludgeoning the poor sea creature in the back. Luckily, she was a master of using the entire fish. I, on the other hand, just pretended like the bludgeoning didn’t happen (*plugs ears*, la-la-la-la-la). Below, our “catch.”
The fish we asked for came out in slow braised fillets; the bones were removed and made into a light, savory soup. Extraction of flavor compounds from fish carcass was surprisingly quick. With more time, and perhaps with a pressure cooker, the bones can be rendered edible just like whole canned salmon. I was somewhat interested this particular process, so, I briefly looked into it in this particular manual.
The jist of the process goes like this.
1. Evisceration of the fish.
2. Pre-cooked via steam.
3. Drained or dried, desired liquid added back.
4. Vacuum can-seal process, second cooking process involving pressure (around 20 psi).
5. Sterilization (of the outside).
The methods vary for types of fish and different techniques, but that would probably require an additional 50 posts. Enough about high-pressure cooking for now.
The sea snails were prepared soy-sauce-black-cracked-pepper style. We got the proper lesson of eating them using toothpicks. A “smooth twirling motion” that would safely excavate them from the shell was the way to go. Breakage of the snail resulted in ridicule from the shopmaster. Truly an art.
What an exercise in eating…