Back To Black Bean SauceOno, You Know
October 22, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich |
Happy Sunday, Ono readers! It was so much fun celebrating National Seafood Month last week, so I decided to keep that theme going with some out-of-this-world fillets of fish. And if you ask me which preparation you can never go wrong with when it comes to biting into tender, flaky pieces of fish, I’d have to go with black bean sauce — hands down!
Made from fermented black soybeans, this staple Chinese condiment is off the charts on the flavor meter, packing a powerful punch of sharp, salty and spicy goodness. On its own it can be pungent, but when paired with a fresh catch that perfectly absorbs and balances out its strong flavor, black bean sauce turns into culinary heaven.
Though the sauce is traditionally cooked up in Cantonese and Sichuan kitchens, there is no shortage of it here in the Islands, either. So without further ado, let’s fade into black bean sauce.
Any dish that’s been on a menu for decades is worth trying, as there must be something to it that keeps customers coming back for more.
That’s exactly the case with Chinese Steamed Fillet of Fresh Fish ($25.50 half, $34.50 full) at 3660 on the Rise, which has never been taken off the menu.
“This is one of the original dishes that’s been on the menu since the restaurant’s inception in 1992,” confirms chef de cuisine Lydell Leong.
So what is it that has made this entree a signature fixture at 3660? The Kaimuki eatery is known for its upscale approach to island fusion cuisine, and Steamed Fillet definitely fits into that category, but at the heart of what makes it so irresistible for local patrons is the comfort factor.
“The preparation is a combination of that classic black bean-style as well as the other steamed shoyu-style of cooking fish with the hot oil,” explains Leong. “It’s the kind of flavors that are really familiar to people who grew up here, just maybe put together in a little bit of a different way.”
That way involves steaming and braising fresh fish in a blend of chicken broth accented with oyster sauce, shoyu, sesame oil and, of course, Chinese-style fermented black beans. “In this type of steaming process, it goes both ways: the broth flavors the fish and the fish flavors the broth at the same time,” Leong shares, adding that depending on availability, he tries to use local fish as much as possible. When Ono, You Know stopped by, the dish was prepared with a lovely New Zealand orange roughy, which Leong took a liking to a few months back. “I tried it in this steamed/braised preparation and it’s killer with the texture and flavor,” he enthusiastically describes.
For the finishing touches, the tender pieces of fillet are placed atop sautéed vegetables and garnished with a mixture of julienned green onions, ginger and bell peppers. Last, but not least, fresh cilantro brightens each bite. In the end, it’s not surprising this dish is such a hit.
Diners should also note: The restaurant is debuting a special four-course menu ($60) on Tuesday, featuring a small portion of Ahi Katsu; choice of clam and corn chowder or Caesar salad; entrée selection of Tempura Catfish with ponzu sauce, New York Steak Alaea or Chicken Oscar with yuzu hollandaise; and strawberry short cake for dessert.
Little Village Noodle House on Smith Street is known for its Northern-style Chinese cuisine, which is often dressed up with a touch of American flair. On its menu, Sizzling Black Cod Steak ($28.95) is one of those dishes that showcases just why customers love the eatery’s homemade fare so much.
The fantastic black bean sauce, for starters, is made in house with plenty of garlic and a bit of spice. It’s slathered over a giant hunk of black cod, or sablefish, which is grilled and served sizzling at the table on a bed of caramelizing onions.
“When the black bean sauce hits the platter, it gives it this great aroma that fills the room,” explains general manager David Chang.
In addition to being a hit on the menu, the dish is a popular choice for larger parties and special events hosted at the restaurant, Chang says. Some guests like to order it all to themselves, while others share it among two to three diners.
Another key reason this entree is so delicious? “We tried other fish, but you just can’t beat black cod,” adds Chang, who recommends enjoying it with rice on the side. “The fish itself is very buttery and tender.”
After one bite of this melt-in-your-mouth white fish, don’t hold back on ordering some of the other favorites that have kept this restaurant booming in the heart of Chinatown since 2001 — including Garlic Butter Steamed Kauai Prawns, Orange Chicken and Salt & Pepper Pork Chops. And, while you’re at it, be sure to ask Little Village about its popular Turkey Takeout Thanksgiving packages, as the holidays are right around the corner.