Other than our short temper, my brother and I share little in common. Our hobbies and activities are also completely different. While I love arts and technology, he is an accountant, a true “foodie” and an avid fisherman.
Having said that, I love my brother dearly and would find any opportunity to spend time with him. Since the thought of him joining me in a brotherly hackathon is a little absurd, one of the most joyful activities we do together happens to be fishing.
Whenever I find myself sitting in the middle of the dark ocean with the frigid winds howling and the “pup-pup” sounds of the waves hitting the sides of the fiberglass boat, it’s often dawn on me how foreign this experience is to me. It’s definitely nothing like programming at all as the joy of reeling in a striped bass is indescribable!
Striped bass is difficult to catch, especially for amateur like myself. On a boat of four or five people, it would be a good night to go ashore with one per person. Still, someone always catch one and that’s the beauty and hope of the hobbyist fisherman.
When the stars are aligned in form of big catch and no work the following day, nothing is better than a celebratory impromptu get-together. At these Vietnamese drinking bash or “nhậu”, the striped bass is usually cooked into a few courses: fish rice porridge (with the head), seared fillet and the most unique of all, sautéed organs and innards. Like the efforts on the sea, no part of the fish is to be wasted.
Usually, the fish is gutted first to keep the precious innards and organs including the gills as fresh as possible. While waiting for a pot of water, the innards are cleaned under salted water. The washed innards are then quickly dipped into the boiled water before some more scrubbing with a sharp spoon, especially the intestines.
After a nice cleaning, all innards are washed again with water and marinated with crushed black peppers, fish sauce, sugar and turmeric powder. The whole thing is then allowed to sit for a short time while a few onions is thickly sliced. When everything is done, there would be a bowl of the marinated innards and another bowl of sliced onions.
Only the innards are thrown onto a hot pan with a little bit of olive oil and stir for a few minutes. As the pan is turning into a nice golden color from the turmeric powder, the onions are then tossed in to join the medley. If the group is up for it, a red-hot chilly pepper is thrown to spice it up. A few more minutes of stirring and you get the most amazing drinking food: striped bass organs and innards with sautéed onion and turmeric powder. A small bowl of soy sauce and with chilly pepper and if available, a plate of fresh herbal vegetables would be the best “Amen” to a heavenly meal.
As I write this article, I think some fisherman or fisherwoman is out there without the deserving credit of inventing this unique and tasty dish. To whoever you are, thank you!