I was really hungry last night at around 9:30 PM but it was too late to eat. So instead I ate a banana. As I lay down in bed I was still thinking of something to eat because I don’t like just snacking on crackers. I don’t find them very filling especially now that I am pregnant and everything I could think about is heavy meals like Pho soup, lots and lots of noodles, and dishes with coconut milk. Then, I remembered, wait, wait, wait, I have mackerel in the freezer! I immediately wanted to come downstairs but I thought I could sleep my cravings away and wait for tomorrow with a little discipline. But I went downstairs anyway because I need to thaw the beautiful Norwegian Mackerel overnight. It took a lot of suppression so I got tired and fell asleep fast.
Came morning, I didn’t even have my usual breakfast of oatmeal, berries, and tea but managed to grab a banana (again) and ate it fast as I was rushing upstairs to the baby’s room. I cleaned the baby’s room and bathroom while already looking forward to the “ginataan” (done with coconut milk) that I would be making soon. When I was done cleaning it was 11:30 AM so I was again hungry and ended up eating 2 large Hass avocados! After I regained my energy, I started chopping the ingredients fast and I was done at about twelve noon. I washed the fish twice which had already been cleaned at the shop, gathered my veggies and spices, and started frying half the chopped ginger with extra virgin olive oil and immediately threw in the mackerel as the ginger became aromatic. By the way, I had the mackerel cleaned and sliced in No. 2. It’s a code for cleaning and slicing in 4 segments when you go to Asian stores.
After five minutes, when the mackerel’s skin turned golden brown and not sticking to the pan anymore, I turned it over to cook the other side. I fried all of it with the lid on to cook the fish evenly. You can also use a splatter screen but it doesn’t prevent the smell from spreading around the house so I had to use the glass lid and also turned on the kitchen hood to filter the smoke. When both sides were fully cooked, I threw in the chopped medium-size yellow onion and then the seven cloves of garlic. I let the mixture fry for 3-5 minutes until they became translucent. Then, I poured in the coconut milk from TJ’s and the remaining ginger and let it simmer over medium-high heat. Oh, I almost forgot to put the rice wine vinegar and the fish sauce but luckily I realized right on time. As with everything, you need to taste test it first before you add the salt and pepper. The last step is super easy, just lower the fire and throw in the bok choy. Cook it for a minute, turn the fire off, and remove from the heat source. It must remain covered until you’re ready to serve it so that the half-cooked bok choy continues to cook for a bit more time. If you feel like eating later, which was not the case for me, open the lid so the bok choy remains crispy.
I hope you enjoy making this recipe because I love this dish so much. It reminds me of Asia and of my Filipino heritage. This smaller species of mackerel like the Atka from Alaska is “okay” to eat despite the mercury content scare because it’s still considered “low”. However, avoid the bigger varieties at all cost and if you are pregnant like me avoid it nonetheless. Low is still too high… I feel bad that I gave in but just this time! What an excuse, I know! Anyway, to give you some peace of mind look at this chart from EDF Food Selector. It seems to suggest that US and North Atlantic Mackerel like the Norwegian and Atka species have low mercury content compared to the King Mackerel (also) from the US and the Spanish Mackerel that lives near the Gulf of Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula. The safe assertion is that the smaller the Mackerel species the safer it is to eat and the richer it is with Omega 3’s. Please also avoid eating tuna, shark, marlin, orange roughy, swordfish and most of all tilefish. If you’re confused, just always remember to eat the ones on the bottom of the food chain. Take a look at this chart from BBC:
Courtesy of BBC UK: Should I Worry About The Mercury In The Fish I eat?
laddle/ silicone spatula
deep wok or 4 quarts sauce pot
mortar and pestel (optional)
2 medium-sized mackerel, cleaned
1 lb bok choy, 5 medium bunches
3-inch organic unpeeled ginger knob, sliced thinly
1 medium yellow onion, sliced or chopped
5-7 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cups coconut milk
2 red or green chilis, of your choice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4-1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1/4-1/2 tsp ground black pepper, add as needed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Chop onion, slice ginger thinly with skin still on, crush garlic or use mortar and pestle. Clean bok choy and trim the ends. Wash the already cleaned fish twice under running water.
- Turn the heat on to medium-high. Pour 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Throw in unpeeled organic ginger until fragrant. Put the mackerel in and cover for 5 minutes. Don’t turn mackerel until it’s completely cooked on one side. It will release on its own very easily when fully cooked and the skin will no longer stick to the bottom of the pan. Just be patient in this part. After 5 minutes, turn it over and cook the other side.
- Throw in the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk and half the remaining ginger. Let it boil for 10 minutes. Drizzle with rice wine vinegar and fish sauce. Add the chilis. Taste test, then add Himalayan pink salt and black pepper as needed.
- Lower fire and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes until the coconut milk thickens. When you see the coconut milk starting to turn yellowish and thick add the clean bok choy and cover for a minute. Turn fire off and remove from heat. Let it sit covered for a minute more before serving. The bok choy will be just perfectly cooked and crisp!
- Serve and enjoy with white rice or garlic fried rice. Refrigerate leftover after it cools down completely using a glass container.
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