diet a success: dieter scarily hott and smugg (cont.)

D. ca ma-ca-ren kho coi thit ba chi
(vietnamese mackerel cooked in a pot lined with belly pork)
ok mackerel is VERY CHEAP and VERY OILY, and the oiliness is what some ppl find offputting ( it is “good for you” oiliness): the excellent thing abt this v.easy dish – only one ingred.poss.hard to obtain (i invite comments to put me right here) – is that it is a SOUP in which somehow the oiliness has VANISHED!!

you will need
–two large or three small fresh mackerel (cleaned and beheaded), cut into inch-thick steaks
–a handful of mushrooms, cut into threads (the vietnamese use a giant shiny cleaver but i use scissors)
–two strips of bellypork (or similar cut), also cut into threads
–a small bowlful of thin-sliced bamboo shoots (this is the tricky ingredient: see note at end): it is important though as it colours the soup all creamy and softens the taste
–two pieces beancurd (=tofu) (also = not that vital) chopped into little cubes
–one red chilli pepper, chopped tiny (i actually use dried as i have a huge old bag of em) (hotness to taste AS ALWAYS)
–two slices fresh root ginger, chopped small (size of slice to taste) (mmm ginger)
–authentic flavoursome sauce = 2 parts DARK SOYA SAUCE to 2 parts NUOC MAM (see note at end) to 1 part WHITE WINE, plus a spoonful of sugar
–pint of hot water ready on the side
–spring onions for garnish (so far i have never remembered these)

i. i cook everything in a wok, as you can flash-fry AND make soup in it: otherwise you need a biggish fryin pan and a soup-pan or eathenware cookin pot
ii. if using, flash-fry the tofu and set aside
iii. flash-fry the mackerel steaks till they are “golden brown”
add everything else (except the water and the spring onions) and STIR FRY (actually you might want to add the pork first and stir, then the mushrooms, to sear and seal, and then the rest)
iv. add the hot water, bring to boil, down down and braise for 20 mins (if not usin wok, transfer to pan or pot b4 adding water)
serve (w.spring onion garnish if you remember)

it is EXCELLENTLY FILLING and will probably serve three – two if it’s the whole of the meal – but remember to give ppl a side-dish to spit the bones onto: mackerel bones are pretty ok but you don’t want to be pickin them off the carpet for weeks to come

ok i live in east london’s vietnamese quarter so ALL the above is easy to find (and i actually use dried chinese black mushrooms swank swank, which need soakin in warm water after you threaded em) : HOWEVER – apart from bamboo shoots!! – you can do it all at a one-shop at tescos/sainsbury’s/similar IF (a) you subst.a slightly posher cut of pork for bellypork, which is too vulgar for the sainsbury-tesco massive, and (b) you subt. Blue Dragon Thai NAM PLA fish sauce for NUOC MAM (by taste test they are almost identical – both based on fermented anthonies anchovies yum yum – if thai or viet readers will not be offended to read that). Bamboo shoots you will have to hunt for! (Also worth remembering: you will NOT be usin a whole tinful an they only keep three days in water in the fridge PROVIDED YOU CHANGE THE WATER EVERY DAY – thus bamboo shoots are the pandas of cookin ingredients, almost more trouble than they are worth EXCEPT NOT…)