Several years ago I had the kids over for a theme dinner…the wok was hot and I had prepped a variety of meats, vegetables, spices and sauces with the idea that everyone could step up to the stove and create something. It was a huge success, and daughter-in-law Ali decided that it would be a perfect annual birthday dinner for her. Her dad has an amazing kitchen and offered to start hosting….Ali’s Annual Wok Throwdown!!
We’ve had at least three of these events now, the most recent being a couple weeks ago, and the whole family was free to attend. We’ve gotten braver over the years…now we’re trying dishes like tempura squid, General Tso’s Chicken, outrageous tofu and veggies etc. I decided to try a sesame glazed red snapper.
I found some fresh snapper at Central Market, and even though it was fairly clean it took awhile to get the remaining pin bones out and make sure the skin side was free of scales. My hope was to get the skin crispy enough to eat. I cut the fish into three inch squares and dropped them into a big zip lock bag into which I added a little sesame oil and some fresh minced ginger and garlic. The smell is sublime.
Ali’s dad Dwayne and his wife Dalen are perfect party hosts. The event always kicks off with a shot of something…(Hot Damn!!) and this year’s choice was Fireball whiskey. Wow. Keep that tray away from me after the first couple. Dangerous!
After the welcome shot the call goes out “Two hot woks, no waiting!”. At some point everyone takes a turn at the stove and a variety of concoctions start filling up pie plates that are strategically placed around the kitchen. There’s rice, noodles, chopsticks, condiments, lemons, lime, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, chile sauce, fermented black beans, chicken, beef, shrimp, squid, tofu, lemon grass, mushrooms, scallions, bean sprouts,
cilantro, pickled Serrano peppers, fresh jalapenos, snap peas, green beans, chile pods and more all being transformed into fragrant, steaming delicious mounds of Asian goodness. Nothing tastes bad, but some things stand out as spectacular. Sam’s flank steak was a winner, my Tso’s chicken, while time consuming, was a winner. (The chicken gets dredged in a thick mix of cornstarch, egg and soy sauce before hitting the deep fryer one piece at a time.) So yummy, though, when it gets hit with a sesame sauce flavored with orange zest.
Then, it was time for my red snapper. I heated a clean wok and got some oil almost to the point of smoking, then placed the fish around the wok. I let it sit, not stirring, because I wanted the skin to crisp, and it worked, although a few of the skin pieces stuck to the wok. I didn’t flip the fish, but rather spooned the hot oil over the flesh of the fish until it was cooked from the top down. There was a sesame chicken sauce lying around, so I thickened it slightly and just poured it over the fish and garnished with scallions. It was very delicious, I must say, and even though we were all stuffed everyone had a taste.
We all end up with chopsticks in our pockets, and simply cruise around tasting different things. In fact, I was so busy tasting that there’s not a photo of my finished red snapper dish. Imagine, if you will, a steaming plate of fluffy, perfectly cooked fish glazed with a light sesame soy drizzle. Mmmmmm.
Hey, try a wok throwdown of your own. The whole family gets involved, everyone gets to cook, and you really can’t screw it up! Ciao for now. CG