Steamed Maliputo

I try to eat fish (well, seafood in general) as often as I can. Not only because I actually like seafood (contrary to popular belief as I am forever extolling the virtues of pork), and C loves seafood, but also because (and this may be the shallowest reason of all, so please just humor me) I live in a tropical archipelago and I believe it is my solemn duty to live the island life to the fullest…even if I actually live in a little flat in the middle of a quite-polluted and over-crowded city.

So how do I like to inject a little tropical salsa into my stodgy city life? (Oh Jo! It’s not that stodgy and you know it!) By wearing tank tops and flip-flops at every occasion, by using my sarongs as d├ęcor, by buying tanning oil in the middle of a busy work week, and by eating seafood to remind myself that “Yes! I am surrounded by fish because I live in a tropical paradise!

I can feel summer starting to sharpen its claws on my back, drawing rivers of sweat instead of blood. Technically, I have upwards of 7,000 islands to which I can escape, basking in the sun and eating juicy ripe mangoes. But, in reality, there is work to be done, budgets to be drawn, and schedules to be managed…so a beach getaway will just have to wait. But until then, I can put on my flip-flops, play some samba on the Ipod, and feast on some fish.

Steamed Maliputo
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large onion, half sliced and half chopped
  • 2 native tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 lemon, slice the middle portion thinly, use the end portions for zest and juice
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium sized maliputo (or other white-fleshed fish like lapu-lapu, pompano, or maya-maya), gutted and cleaned
  • 2-3 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Parchment paper

- Line a bamboo steamer with a square of parchment paper, leaving a bit of an overhang.
- Rub fish with sea salt and cracked black pepper inside the cavity and out. Place on parchment inside the bamboo steamer.
- Mix the garlic, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lemon zest, and ginger. Stuff what you can of this mixture in the cavity of the fish, along with a couple of the lemon slices. Scatter whatever is left of the mixture around the fish.
- Drizzle fish with the lemon juice, sesame oil and soy sauce. Top with the rest of the lemon and onion slices. Fold in parchment (it doesn’t have to close completely as it will cook in a steamer anyway) and close the steamer.
- Heat water in a wok until it comes to a rapid simmer. Place steamer in the wok (making sure the water does not touch the contents!) and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Serve the fish in the steamer, because one of the chief joys of owning a bamboo steamer (aside from the fact that they are workhorses in the kitchen and are cheap to boot) is the drama of you taking it to the table (oooh!) and whipping off the cover theatrically (aaah!) to reveal the succulent goodness that lies inside.

Malitputo is a catadromous fish that is either similar, or actually is (I’ve seen both views) talakitok (Trevally/Jack). Its white flesh is firm and incredibly flavorful. When steamed it becomes so moist and almost buttery that my eyelids go all a-flutter when I eat it. (I get mine at the Salcedo Market when they have it)

Whether you are in the sun or in the shade, have a happy weekend! :)