The fragrant smell of ginger leaves and the greasy taste of the freshwater fish have mingled to create a wonderful dish that we can hardly resist.
Freshwater fish cooked with fresh ginger leaves is genuinely a rustic dish. The ginger leaves are taken right in the garden and the fishes are caught in the river or in the field.
Making a pot of freshwater fish cooked with ginger leaves is quite simple. The fish that we use for the dish is mainly the chub fish. We would use the white chub whose bowels is full of fat. After cleaning them, we have to carefully remove all their blood to get rid of all their stinking smell. Then, embalm the fish with fish sauce, salt, onion, pepper, monosodium glutamate and a little oil.
Pick the fresh ginger leaves right in the garden, cut them in to chunk of about 3 – 4 centimeters and put them at the bottom of the pot. Next, put the embalmed fishes on the leaves, add a little sugar and begin to cook until it turns into claret. Then, pour a little water over the fishes.
Continue to cook the pot on small fire in about five more minutes until it boils, then put a banana leaf on the pot and bury them into hot coal or fired rice husk.
After 2 hours, the water in the pot will dry and we would have a pot of fishes that has the fragrance of ginger leaves, the smell of banana leaf and an attractive color.
The fishes then look very hard outside but in fact, their bones inside have been very well – cooked and we do not have to worry about being choked on a fishbone.
In the old days, when we were still children, we preferred the fat belly of the fish most. However, it was only for old people, like our grandparents, or for the youngest child in the house, because it is the best part of the fish.
In my family, my mother used to cook this dish by field chicken, using straw or rice husk. I can never forget the fumes rose into the air and the warm atmosphere in our family every evening we had diner together with a plate of fishes cooked with fresh ginger leaves.
These days, life has changed a lot. Many people, including me, have to stay away from home for studying or working. Yet, the flavor of an old poor life still remains in each people. And to me, the rustic dish of fishes with ginger leaves is something that will follow me in every ways of my life.