Enjoy this traditional Fijian dish from Robert Oliver's award-winning cookbook, Me’a Kai: The Food and Flavours of the South Pacific.
To prepare the sauce, mix the flour well (if using) with a cup of the coconut milk. Strain into a small bowl.
This step and the flour are not traditional and can be left out, but if you don’t use flour, take care not to boil the sauce as it will then separate.
In a heavy pot, heat the remaining coconut milk with the ginger and garlic. Bring to a simmer.
Tip in the flour mix, if using, and whisk very well. Continue to simmer, on a very low heat. If any lumps appear, remove them at this point.
Add the tomatoes (unless you are making this sauce well in advance), then the chilli, citrus juice and citrus leaves, if using. Quickly heat through, then remove the pot from the heat.
Add the spring onion and bok choy (if not preparing the sauce ahead). Mix well, season with salt and pepper and keep the sauce warm while you prepare the fish.
If preparing the sauce ahead, allow it to cool, adding the tomato, spring onion and bok choy just before reheating, so they retain their texture.
To prepare the fish, drizzle the fillets with the cumquat or lime juice and sprinkle with the sea salt and black pepper or chilli flakes.
Dredge in the rice flour.
Pan-fry the fish in a little oil until crisp and cooked (about eight minutes). Meanwhile, reheat the lolo sauce if it is not already warm.
With tongs, remove the bok choy from the sauce and place a little in the middle of each serving plate to make a small mound.
Surround the bok choy with a pool of the sauce, making sure the tomatoes and spring onions are evenly distributed.
Place the cooked fish on the bok choy.
Garnish each portion with a chilli and a lime or cumquat wedge.
There are many versions of this dish. I love the one my friend Viti Whippy makes. She pan-fries fish fillets and lays them in a casserole dish with tomato, onion, chilli, lime, bok choy and coconut milk that has been thinned with a little water. This is baked in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the coconut milk has become saucy. Delicious!
With this recipe, most prep can be done ahead and the dish very quickly finished at the last minute. Walu (Spanish mackerel) is the most popular fish in Fiji: its firm white flesh is suitable for steak, fillet or raw preparations. It’s terrific in this adaptation of Viti’s recipe, using a crispy, crunchy rice-flour crust. Rice flour is a snap to make: simply grind white rice to a rough powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
This recipe is brought to you by the South Pacific Food & Wine Festival.
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