Turmeric Marinated Fish with Rice Noodles and Herbs - rice noodles, tossed with fresh herbs and pineapple sauce; along with the marinated fish turns this recipe into a flavor party in your mouth
Behind the scenes of Turmeric Marinated Fish with Rice Noodles and Herbs
This recipe for Turmeric Marinated Fish with Rice Noodles and Herbs is adapted from my newest cookbook, Pok Pok. Pok Pok is a wonderful Phat Thai restaurant we discovered in Portland as a result of watching Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. It's now become multiple restaurants and noodle houses in Portland, New York, and Los Angeles, with a stand at PDX airport, and we all know that getting a stand in an airport is about as good a sign of success as anything these days. Nonetheless, it's still a wonderful Thai restaurant, run by Andie Ricker, a chef who went to Thailand and fell in love with all things food.
I also love both Thai and Vietnamese food (this recipe Mr. Ricker actually calls Vietnamese in the cookbook). I love the way the foods from these regions weave the flavors of sweet, sour, salty, spicy. Layer upon layer of different levels of flavor. This dish has an earthy, herbaceous, rich, tart, sweet, and funky flavor, all rolled into one. While some of the ingredients may seem unusual, or you may think, hard to find, I'm pretty sure if you venture into an Asian market, you will be able to find most, if not all of them.
Once you have the fish marinated, the herbs chopped, and the rice noodles cooked. you are ready to rock and roll. This recipe comes together very quickly. .
What is Fermented Sticky Rice?
One of the ingredients that I found most interesting was fermented sticky rice.
This rice is used to marinate the fish pieces, along with ground turmeric. I'd never heard of fermented sticky rice and thought it might be like Sake; which is also fermented rice.
But it's not at all like Sake.
Fermented sticky rice is rice, that ferments with the addition of yeast and sugar, then left on the counter to ferment for 8 to 12 days. After this amount of time, the rice looks like rice pudding, very soft, with a pungent vinegary smell. There are a few recipes out there for fermented sticky rice, but as it does take 8 -12 days, and I'm not that great of a future planner, I was lucky to find some in the refrigerator section of my Asian market. Using the fermented sticky rice, along with the turmeric to marinate the fish, gave it a slightly crunchy outside once it was fried in the flavored oil. So what to do if you can't find fermented sticky rice? I would use two tablespoons of rice flour, mixed with a bit of water and about 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar or sake, to mimic the glutinous rice. Mix that with the turmeric and then marinate your fish pieces. It won't be perfect, but it will get the job done.
A word of caution when working with turmeric. IT STAINS! So don't be wearing any light clothing, and wear gloves or use a spoon when mixing the fish into the marinade. Unless, of course, you like yellow hands.
Fresh turmeric looks like ginger root, but the inside is yellow. The recipe uses fresh turmeric to flavor the oil that you fry the fish in. Fresh turmeric is being found more often in the aisles of some of the finer grocery stores and health food stores as it is touted for its medicinal and digestive properties. While these benefits can be found in fresh turmeric, you can also receive the same benefit by using a Turmeric pill or supplement.
For the recipe, if you can't find fresh turmeric, I would use some thinly sliced ginger in its place; ginger being a close cousin will impart good flavor, if not exactly the same flavor. And flavor is good.
So once you have the fish marinated, the herbs chopped, and the rice noodles cooked. you are ready to rock and roll. This recipe comes together very quickly.
Pok-Pok with Modifications
Most of the modifications I made to the recipe are minor and procedural. I used less oil in the preparation, I guess the original idea was to have you serve the fish tableside, with the oil to pour over the fish pieces once you put them on the herbed rice noodles. I didn't see the need for extra oil on my food, so I didn't use it. Secondly, I mixed the noodles with the Pineapple Fish Sauce and added the herbs to it, tossing it so everything was nice and mixed in rather than serve them all separately. And last, but not least, we came up with a pineapple salsa to put on the top which was really refreshingly good; a perfect complement.
Turmeric Marinated Fish with Rice Noodles and Herbs
- For the Fish
- 1 ¼ pounds firm mild-flavored white fish fillets (I used Ling Cod) cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons fermented sticky rice or see my substitution in the making of
- 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pineapple Fish Sauce
- 3 ½ ounces fresh peeled ripe pineapple cut into small chunks (about ½ cup)
- 4 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons fermented fish sauce Naam plaa raa, a thicker fish sauce available in Asian markets, or use 1 extra tablespoon fish sauce
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- ¾ teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 thinly sliced red Thai chile or jalapeno chili
- Turmeric Oil
- ⅓ cup neutral oil I use grapeseed oil
- 1- inch piece of fresh or frozen turmeric thinly sliced
- The Noodles
- 8 ounces dried rice vermicelli cooked according to package directions, rinsed and well-drained
- ¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup thinly sliced green onion tops
- ¼ cup chopped fresh dill weed
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
- For the Rest
- 2 cups green onions sliced on the diagonal into 1 ½ slices
- ½ cup dill weed fronds without large stems
- Pineapple Salsa
- ½ cup diced fresh pineapple
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh red chile
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- ½ teaspoon lime juice
- Dash salt
- Marinate the fish: Combine the fermented rice, turmeric powder, and salt in a large bowl; add the fish and mix well to coat all the pieces of fish (remember it stains). Cover the bowl and place it into the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight.
- Prepare the Pineapple Fish Sauce: Place all the ingredients except the chiles into a food processor or blender, blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl (may be kept at room temperature for a few hours; if keeping longer, place in the refrigerator. Remove at least an hour before serving.) Stir in the chiles right before using.
- Make the Turmeric Oil: Combine the oil and fresh turmeric in a small pot over low heat; once the oil starts to bubble, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover the pot to allow it to seep. After an hour, remove the solids; the oil is now infused with turmeric flavors.
- Prepare the Salsa: Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set-aside.
- To Serve: In a large bowl combine the rice noodles with the pineapple fish sauce; add the fresh herbs, reserving some for the top. Toss well to combine.
- Heat the turmeric oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the fish and cook, turning until brown and cooked through about 5 minutes. Add the onions and dill fronds, toss until combined and the onions start to wilt. Be gentle so you don't break the fish up. Place the herbed noodles into a bowl; top with the fish and spoon the onions and dill over the top (use the oil or don't. Up to you. I did not. Sprinkle the reserved herbs, spoon on some of the pineapple relish, and finish with the chopped peanuts.