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Sake-Ginger-Soy Marinated Sea Bass with Coconut Rice (and Spain)

August 1, 2010

After a few weeks of indulging in burgers and other meaty dishes, I was ready to return to more simple fare of fish and rice.  As much as I love pasta–and I do mean love–I always crave the familiar sameness of rice.  I’m certain it’s my Asian upbringing, eating rice at least once a day while growing up.  My taste buds always feel comforted and “at home” when I take a bite of rice, no matter where I am.

I recall one such experience.  We spent three weeks in Spain and ate our way through countless plates of paella and grilled sardines–right up my alley.  It was fabulous to finally see a country that had been on my Top 3 to visit for so long.  I spoke enough conversational Spanish to feel comfortable but it was the kindness of the locals that made me feel so welcome.

We couldn't get enough grilled sardines.

The last leg of our trip was spent in Basque country, San Sebastian to be exact, although we also got to see a little of Biarritz.  Pintxos (tapas) and just great food all around abound in San Sebastian.  It’s considered one of the dining cities in the world (I didn’t know this at the time of our visit but I can attest based on what we tasted).  The old town, especially, was wonderful for walking around and discovering hidden-away restaurants that other tourists like me would not normally venture into, but we were so happy for doing so.

The beach in San Sebastian from our hotel room with hubby checking out the water.

An alternate view from our other hotel room. It's the building in the distance from the previous picture.

We rode this cool funicular to get there...

A look at the Guggenheim, Bilbao

At any rate, by the time we returned to Barcelona to catch our flight home, I was ready for some Asian flavors, namely plain rice.  We found a Thai restaurant that would sate the craving.  Well, for a rice-loving girl like me, a teeny tiny bowl wasn’t going to be enough so I promptly ordered a second one to mop up all the sauce from my entrée.  When we got the bill, the little bowls of rice were €8 each!  Granted, we were happy with our meal but we spent €24 (over $30) for a side dish that would have cost much, much less at home.  Oh well, live and learn.

My point to this long story is that my Asian roots speak loudly when it comes to my food cravings. This dish I prepared two days ago has a mixed Asian theme what with the sake, fresh ginger, sweet soy sauce and the coconut in the rice.  I am very happy to say that the flavors were pleasantly harmonious.  Sea bass is such an easy fish to work with because its high fat content makes it hard to overcook while it retains its delicate texture.

It works well with marinades, too.  In this case, I combined the aforementioned ingredients and marinated the sea bass steak overnight.  Even after almost 24 hours in the fridge, the flavors were still delicate, not overpowering at all.  The individual ingredients didn’t vie for attention against the others but rather they worked together to envelop the fish with a fresh, slightly-sweet essence.

I’m disappointed that the fish didn’t photograph well here.  I haven’t been very careful with my presentation lately–there’s the small issue of serving the food while it’s still hot.  You get what you put in, obviously.  I should have left the sea bass steak uncut before taking pictures of it.  Still, you can see that it has just started to flake here; it was incredibly juicy.

For the rice, I was inspired by all the beautiful coconut milk-infused dishes I’ve been seeing lately.  It was an easy decision to take a can out of my pantry and add it to my rice.  I used a simple preparation:  half water and half coconut milk.  The result is a subtle coconut flavor that won’t be too rich (since coconut milk contains a lot of fat).  I topped the rice with fried shallots for some crunch.

Lastly, a simple arugula salad (dressed with fresh lemon juice and olive oil) was actually a very good addition to this meal.  I had a bag that needed to be eaten and the sharp, slightly-bitter note of the arugula paired well with the mellow, sweet flavors of the rice and fish.

Sake-Ginger-Soy Marinated Sea Bass with Coconut Rice

For the Sea Bass:

  • 1 pound sea bass steak
  • Scant 1/4 cup sake (you can use mirin instead, a Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2-3 tsp sweet soy sauce (You can sub regular soy sauce but you’ll have to add a bit of sugar)
  • Juice of 3 kalamansi limes or 1 tablespoon lemon

For the Coconut Rice:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups long grain white rice, uncooked
  • Water
  • Coconut milk (I used roughly half of a 14-oz can)
  • No-salt seasoning (optional)

Note:  I’ll share with you my virtually foolproof way of measuring liquid for cooking rice below.

To prepare the fish:  Combine the sake, sweet soy sauce, grated ginger and citrus juice in a bowl.  Taste it and adjust to your liking.  When you’re satisfied add the olive oil.  I marinated mine in a gallon-size Ziploc bag so it would be easier to turn the fish as it marinated.  Marinate for a few hours or one day like I did.

To cook, I used a cast-iron griddle on the stovetop.  Make sure that the griddle is very hot.  Cook the fish for a few minutes on each side.  Cooking times may vary especially since you can also prepare this in your outdoor grill or the broiler.  My rule of thumb is to check the fish about 3 minutes after you start.

To prepare the rice:  Cook the rice as you normally would either in your rice cooker or the stovetop.  I used approximately equal measures of water and coconut milk to get the subtle coconut flavor I was after.  I also added a dash or two of no-salt seasoning to brighten the flavor of the rice.

Here’s my tip:  I seldom use my rice cooker since there are only two of us at home.  Most of the time, I cook rice in a small saucepan.  If you measure out anywhere from one to three cups of uncooked rice, I add enough liquid to cover  the rice up to the first joint on my finger if I dip it in the rice.  Does this make sense?  After rinsing the rice in the sauce pan, I add enough water to cover it plus a little more.  I dip one of my fingers in the water and stop as soon as the tip of my finger hits the rice.  I add as much water as would cover the first line on the inside of my finger.  I learned this from my mother and it works very well.  Whether you use a small sauce pan or large, the rice always turns out right, not too dry and not too wet.

For the coconut rice, I added just enough water to cover the rice and added the coconut milk for the remaining liquid required.  Cover and bring to a boil.  When it starts boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.  Top with fried shallots if you like.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2010 12:05 PM

    This dish looks delicious. My kind of meal. And Spain, ahhh I would love to visit! Thanks for sharing.

    • August 1, 2010 5:22 PM

      Thanks, Lisa. I would love to return to Spain one of these years. Just have to convince the hubby. 🙂

  2. August 1, 2010 12:58 PM

    Looks lovely and I do share your desire to serve hot 🙂 Its hard here to take pics with a 4yr old telling me he’s hungry.
    Its amazing how certain foods just make us feel at home. We went to San Sebastien a few years ago to visit and we had the best tapas there—amazing !

    Thanks for sharing your rice tip, definitely going to give that one a try.

    • August 1, 2010 5:23 PM

      Sharlene, wasn’t San Sebastian wonderful? Loved the people and of course, the food!

      I don’t have a four year old but I do try to be mindful to serve my dishes to my husband while they’re still warm. 🙂

  3. August 1, 2010 1:15 PM

    Jean, using my fingers to measure how much water to add to the rice is exactly how I do it too 🙂 I learned it from my Filipino grandfather! The meal looks delish!

  4. August 1, 2010 1:21 PM

    This does look fantastic…and isn’t it amazing how much things can cost in some European countries? We went to Spain last year and ended up spending A LOT more money on food than I planned. I love the sake in the fish marinade and the coconut milk in the rice. This looks simply delicious.

  5. August 1, 2010 3:27 PM

    looks so good! I was in spain for 3 days–I was supposed to travel for a month, but I stopped in on my way back into the US from a 5 week trip in East Africa and the malaria I caught made me quite sick. 😦 I will be back for that food!

    And you know how much I love sea bass. best fish EVER. I’m having salmon tonight and I want to use your marinade for that (I knew I saw the title of this post in my feed but couldn’t remember who wrote it–so I went searching)

    • August 1, 2010 5:30 PM

      Malaria? Oh no! At least you got to see Spain, huh? We had to skip a trip to Africa a few years ago but I definitely plan to make up for it.

      The sea bass worked really well for this marinade. I was afraid that the sake would be too much but it really wasn’t. I hope you like it, too. 🙂

  6. August 1, 2010 3:43 PM

    Just lovely! I am so jelous of your trip. I have been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Maybe after my little one is a bit bigger… or we could leave him with the grandparents.

    • August 1, 2010 5:32 PM

      Nicole, I highly recommend Spain. We traveled all around and the experience was good all the way. I plan to return. 🙂 Maybe your little one will enjoy some bonding time with the grandparents so you can go. 🙂

  7. August 1, 2010 5:00 PM

    Jean, we could be sisters. After spending a week in Tahoe, despite the large amount of sushi I consumed, there were a lot of burgers/salads/resort fare, and I am now home making a saucepan of rice. I also use the finger joint method!!! I do know what you mean about craving rice!

    The fish looks SO good – love the sake-ginger-soy, YUM!

    • August 1, 2010 5:40 PM

      Welcome back, Liren. Tahoe is so pretty this time of year.

      We’re foodie twins! I guess we filipinos all learn how to cook rice the same way. The method works so well, though, right? I’m stir-frying our leftover rice tonight with chopped spinach and mushrooms. Hubby’s request. 🙂

  8. August 1, 2010 5:00 PM

    Spain! I am in dire need of a trip like that… but I’d settle for food like this. GREG PS I so love grilled sardines (well almost any sardines!).

  9. August 1, 2010 5:41 PM

    Any sardines is right, Greg. I’m with you. 🙂

  10. August 1, 2010 6:01 PM

    what a great trip!!! I have never been to Spain (but I kinda like the music).,sorry couldn’t…really now, I would love to see Spain, I even have relatives over there…….your Sea Bass looks flaky and fresh….the marinade must have added a lot of flavor to the sea bass and the coconut rice sound like a perfect side dish!

    • August 1, 2010 7:34 PM

      Chef Dennis, I agree with you about Spanish music; I’m a fan, too. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment. I was very pleasantly surprised by this combo. I’ll definitely do it again. 🙂

  11. August 1, 2010 7:23 PM

    What a wonderful trip – I’ve been living vicariously through you and a few others who have been posting their beautiful photos from abroad. It is a challenge photographing food when you like to eat it hot! I love the simplicity of the sauce and the coconut rice.

  12. August 1, 2010 7:23 PM

    The sea bass looks delicious as well as the rest of your dinner! I would be very happy with a wonderful plate of healthy fish, salad and rice any night of the week. I love the variety of rice that’s available now and usually make jasmine rice because it’s my favorite. What about using the light coconut milk for the rice, would that work? Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing and thanks for the nice comment chez pattysfood:-)

    • August 1, 2010 7:36 PM

      Patty, it’s hard to beat jasmine rice, isn’t it? It goes with practically everything.

      I considered using light coconut milk for this but since I was only using a half portion I opted not to but I think it would work just fine. In fact, I’ll try it next time to save even more on the calories. 🙂

  13. August 1, 2010 7:24 PM

    Oh, you are making me jealous despite spending a week in England–Spain has been on my “OMG I NEED TO GO” list since before La Furia Roja won the World Cup…but now I’m trying to drown my sorrows in new Spanish cookbooks and stalking airfares on…

  14. August 1, 2010 7:38 PM

    Elizabeth, thanks for dropping by. 🙂 I’m with you on the Spanish cookbooks. In fact, I just added the one you recommended on your last post to my Amazon Wish list (thanks!). Spain is a beautiful country and I long to go back. I can’t imagine anyone not loving it there. 🙂

  15. August 2, 2010 6:56 AM

    I love rice recipes and will definitely try the coconut version. I bet the food tastes so much better in Spain just because of the scenery. Looks like it was a wonderful time.

    Creatively Domestic – Easy Cooking

  16. August 2, 2010 8:37 AM

    wow i am so jealous! What beautiful pictures
    we recently marinated Tilapia fillets with sake and it turned out delicious!!
    Thank you for your nice recipe,
    Lisa ( also a big rice girl) 🙂

    • August 2, 2010 7:59 PM

      To a fellow rice girl: I’ll have to try this marinade on tilapia fillets. I have some in the freezer. 🙂

  17. August 2, 2010 10:39 AM

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one with weird rice cravings! During law school, I built many a meal around rice doused with soy sauce and sesame oil. Weird, but so comforting. I now wish I had some ginger soy sea bass to go along with it 🙂

    • August 2, 2010 8:01 PM

      Not weird at all. Soy sauce seems to “complete” rice, if you know what I mean. I have a nephew who will eat bowls of this! 🙂

  18. August 2, 2010 11:26 AM

    This meal is right up my alley! Just what I will make one day once I get a hold of a fresh fish; I just love the simple and subtle flavors.

  19. August 2, 2010 1:09 PM

    Mmm…I remember eating amazing grilled sardines in Spain last summer, right on the beach. We didn’t make it to San Sebastian, but I’ve heard it’s fabulous…someday!

  20. August 2, 2010 7:40 PM

    Spain is on my list of “go to” places. Just from your photos, it looks and sounds amazing. I can relate on eating too many “bad” things. The fish is just what I need. Love the marinade you made. Have a great week!!

  21. August 2, 2010 9:37 PM

    I think the presentation of the fish looks great and I agree with you…there is something I crave about asian flavors.

  22. August 3, 2010 4:27 AM

    Neat photos. Love the sardine skeletons…

  23. trissalicious permalink
    August 3, 2010 5:08 AM

    I never made it to San Sebastian but have heard wonderful things about the food there from my Mom who loved it… one day…

    Anyway – the fish looks so healthy. I too have been indulging too much in fast food… I’ll have your fish for dinner tomorrow!

  24. August 3, 2010 3:41 PM

    Oh, how I miss Spain! I spent less than a week there and missed San Sebastian but the food there was so delicious. Thanks for sharing your photos and your lovely fish and rice dinner. BTW, I used the finger-rice-pot method in college when I often made rice just for myself. 🙂 Hope you’re having a fabulous week.

    • August 3, 2010 10:07 PM

      Hi Judy! Having a busy week but no complaints. 🙂 I guess we all learned the same rice cooking method from our moms! 🙂

  25. August 4, 2010 9:38 PM

    The first time I had coconut rice was in a Burmese restaurant here in the city… loved it! But I haven’t had the chance to try it at home… thanks for the tip in making coconut rice! And by the way, where do you get your fresh kalamansi? I’ve been looking for those in Asian markets and Farmers markets in the city but couldn’t find any.

    • August 4, 2010 9:50 PM

      Jun, I bought a kalamansi plant at Home Depot about four years ago and it’s just now starting to produce fruit. It took a while because a rabbit kept eating the bottom leaves. I know the plant is sold regularly at Home Depot now–at least I see them every spring. When my tree gets bigger and I have more fruit than I can handle, I’ll ship some to you! 🙂

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