“Clean” is a very specific flavor adjective in the Taiwanese language. It is not quite the same as “clean eating” popular in the US, because instead of focusing on the ingredients or preparation, the Taiwanese adjective refers primarily to the flavor profile. The “clean” adjective often refers to a light, simple, and refreshing flavor. It also has a connotation of coziness and comfort, think chicken soup. Something like a bowl of rice lightly flavored with ginger, sparkling water with a hint of lychee, or even a bowl of miso soup might all be associated with this adjective.
With my mom’s recovery, she’s often nauseous and has little to no appetite. Because the chemotherapy also messes with her taste buds, simple flavors are more agreeable to her. Last week, she actually had an appetite and I made a meal to celebrate. Mom requested something “clean” and her fiancé and I are also working to sneak in as much protein as possible into her diet. Since my mom’s comfort foods almost always involve Asian flavor profiles, I decided to browse through the The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery for inspiration. According to Rebecca Katz, Ginger acts as a “nausea reducer, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial” ingredient.
With inspiration from Ginger and Rebecca Katz, I settled on a green tea ginger rice, gag grouper poached in coconut milk, and bok choy with mushrooms. It came together beautifully, and I used fresh ginger to tie all three of the dishes together. The meal was a treat for all of us. Healthy, delicious, and enjoyed together. My recipes, timing, and methods are below. Unlike most of my posts that feature just one recipe, I’ve included all three below. Follow these steps and you’ll have a lovely dinner on the table in about an hour.
GREEN TEA GINGER RICE (adapted from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery)
1 cup rice (your choice of rice, my mom likes short grain white rice, but this recipe will work beautifully with jasmine rice or even brown rice)
2 cups water
1 bag of green tea
1 piece of sliced, fresh ginger, peeled and about ½ inch thick
GAG GROUPER POACHED IN GINGER, LEEK, AND COCONUT MILK
4 filets of grouper, about 5-6 oz. each (you can substitute with another white, flaky, fish)
1 tablespoon olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 leek, white parts only, washed and sliced into thin rings
1 small white onion, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz. can coconut milk
BOK CHOY & SHITAKE MUSHROOMS (adapted from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
4-5 dried shitake mushrooms
1 bunch bok choy or 5-6 bunches of baby bok choy, chopped into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup chicken stock or water
Rehydrate the Shitake mushrooms in a small bowl of warm water.
Rinse the grouper filets and pat dry. Salt and pepper each filet generously on both sides.
Prep all of the vegetables — Slice the onion and leek. Chop the scallions, grate the ginger, mince the garlic. Chop the bok choy, into 2 inch pieces. If you are using baby bok choy, you can just cut off the bases to separate the stalks.
Start the Green Tea Ginger Rice: In a small pot, add rice, ginger, and 2 cups of water. (If you as using jasmine or brown rice, use the rice and water ratios indicated on the package. Use 1 green tea bag for every 2 cups of water).
Bring the rice, ginger and water to a boil, then drop the tea bag into the pot, and turn the water to a low simmer and cover tightly. Cook for the time indicated on the instructions. There should be steady but not rigorous stream of steam from the covered pot. For white rice, this is about 15 minutes. Don’t peak, don’t! Just remove from the heat and keep covered.
While the rice water is simmering, start the Gag Grouper Poached in Ginger, Leek, and Coconut Milk.
In a large non-stick skillet (big enough to hold all of the filets), add olive oil, leek, and onion over medium high heat. After the onions start to soften and become translucent, about 3-4 minutes, add garlic and ginger and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Add the filets into the pan by pushing aside the leeks and onions to make room for each of the filets. In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk and add the coconut milk to the skillet. Once the coconut milk comes to a simmer, lower the heat to keep the milk at a slow simmer. Do not cover. Simmer for 12-15 minutes until or until the fish is just cooked and flaky.
As the Grouper simmers, the rice should be done and off the heat, but covered. Drain and slice the re-hydrated mushrooms for the Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms. Then, in a large wok, heat the sesame oil over high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the ginger and garlic. After 30 seconds, add the bok choy and sliced mushrooms. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and sauté the bok choy for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken stock or water. Stir the bok choy and continue cooking on high heat. As soon as the bok choy is bright green and the leaves are wilted, turn off the heat– this usually takes 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
If you follow this method and these steps, the grouper and the bok choy should be complete at about the same time, and dinner is served!