Last week, one of her emails included a recipe for Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus and Lemon. I am not a big seafood fan, but Tilapia is one type of fish that I actually like. Plus, I love asparagus and everything else in the recipe was easy to find in Malaysia, so I figured I'd give it a try.
And then THIS happened:
There was one man already at work dissecting what I think was a baby shark for another customer, so thankfully a friendly employee came over to help. He, of course, didn't speak much English, thus the conversation that ensued was half charades and crazy facial expressions and half overly-emphatic and shouted words.
Me: "Can I have one fish?"
Me: "Can you cut it for me?"
Him: "Yes. Which one?"
Me: "I don't care."
Him: "Which one?"
Me: "I have no idea."
Him: "Big or small?"
Me: "Small, I guess?"
[He picked looked at two and then chose one. I'm pretty sure the looking at the first was all for show. I saw nothing different about them.]
Him: "This one?"
Me: "Yes. Can you cut it for me, please?"
Him: "How many pieces?"
Me: "Ummm. Two?" [Thought going through my head: "Isn't there a protocol for this? Like, can't I just say "Cut it for me, please" and have you present me with a couple of nice, fresh fillets? Why is this so difficult?"]
Him: "Do you want the head?"
Me: "Ew. No way. NO." [Remember what I said about charades, facial expressions and over-emphasis? There were lots at this point.]
Me: "Nope. No stomach. Just the fish."
He was actually the beef and chicken grinder, so he gave the fish and instructions to the shark guy and walked away. A few minutes later, I walked away with...
Right. So.. Now what? The recipe called for a few fillets, not a whole fish tail. How exactly is one supposed to get from one to the other? Thanks to my friends Google and Youtube, I figured it out. And, 30 minutes, fish guts, cracking fish bones, a couple of almost cuss words, and some disgusted facial expressions later, I had 3 minuscule pieces of tilapia to fry up. Haha. By this point, I was borderline between "THIS IS NOT WORTH IT" and "I WILL EAT THIS FISH IF IT'S THE LAST THING I DO." And since my momma didn't raise a quitter, I went ahead and cooked up the recipe. Here is the final result:
Yes, it was delicious. Yes, that is a salad plate. The recipe was supposed to make enough for 4 adult servings. Mine made 1/2. However, it was delicious, so I went to the import store, bought 4 huge frozen fillets for $5 and plan to make this again soon...the right way (why I didn't do this in the first place, I'll never know). At least now I can say I've filleted a fish...kind of, at least. :)
Here's the recipe if anyone else is brave enough to try it. (Chef's note: Buy already filleted tilapia.)
Chili-Rubbed Tilapia With Asparagus and Lemon
- 2 pounds organic asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 pound tilapia, Pacific sole, or other firm white-fish fillet
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1) Bring an inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, place in the pan, cover, and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, spreading out to cool.
2) Combine chili powder, garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just opaque in the center, gently turning halfway, 5 to 7 minutes total.3) Divide among 4 plates. Immediately add lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and asparagus to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is coated and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the asparagus with the fish