Wu and the Fish Tail

There is a definite  difference between dining and eating. I’m afraid I have acquired  the habit of eating standing  up at the kitchen counter  while watching a bit of this or that program. It’s a far cry from the way I grew up,  eating by oneself,  rather than gathering at the table with  family. It does not even offer  the companionable comfort of sitting beside someone on the couch while watching TV.

There is no absorbing experience related to eating, while dining offers the chance to enjoy a memorable  event.  The table becomes a set, the dishes props, the menu an ensemble cast, and the colors, textures and aromas the score.

It was the longing to put my feet under the table and enjoy the beauty of Mr. Wu’s cuisine that made me decide that it would be foolish not to dine in, so I called Mr. Wu to tell him I was on my way, and surprised him by answering yes when he asked if I would be a guest for dinner.

But I was  in for the bigger surprise because Mr. Wu prepared a very special dish for me that is not on the Royal Panda menu–steamed red snapper with northern bok choy and brown rice. Mr. Wu basted the fish with a very complex  sauce, then swaddled  the fish in the bok choy and steamed the entire  bundle for an hour over low heat. It was incredible.

For my dinner, he served me the fish’s tail.  This  afforded me the opportunity to ask Mr. Wu his thoughts on fish cheeks–did he consider them a delicacy.  He answered that he felt the head of the fish was without a doubt the most delectable part of the fish, and I laughed, “but you have given me the tail!”

He quickly explained that the tail was the second best part of the fish, with the middle of the fish, in his estimation bringing up the rear. By his reckoning, the head and the tail are the most mobile parts of the fish, creating its motion through the water.

Mr. Wu makes many opportunities to get up close and personal with fish since his favorite past time is fishing with his friends.  Fishing gives Mr. Wu a chance to enjoy nature and get away from the hectic pace of his very people-oriented business.

We talked about how Americans in general like their  fish filleted and without the skin. I nodded in agreement,  knowing though that  up until the dramatic  entrance of this red snapper in its splendid crimson swimsuit, that  I had been the same.

Pulling the delicate fish from the bones made the meal all the more rewarding.   The rich broth that had been created as the fish steamed was a rich reddish brown, and spooned over the fish and the brown rice, it was taste-boggling. The bok choy had become infused with the intense flavors of the broth and was heavenly, something I did not know that bok choy could aspire to be. There was a liveliness to the cabbage and a transformation that was unique and intentional.

The food on my plate did not begin as  food. Once it was a wild thing, a fish that swam, a plant that searched out the sun from the darkness of the soil. To know this and to remember it, is to be more respectful of what we consume. Even if it was the part that went over the dam last,  it once had life, and gives us life.

It’s a thought that will inform more of my choices, and is one more step along the path of the Wu Food Project.

Mr. Wu with striper bass he caught while fishing at Pickwick Lake.

Steamed red snapper with northern bok choy and brown rice

Close up of Snapper


2 thoughts on “Wu and the Fish Tail

  1. Bill and I thoroughly enjoyed dining with you and Mr. Wu. We left completely satisfied but not stuffed. It was such a remarkable dining experience. Jean, we can tell that you are losing weight. Keep it up. We are already planning to join you again next week.

  2. I always make a point to sit down and eat for every meal, even though I’m normally dining alone. Even when I’m having a “working lunch” (like right now, eating at my desk and working), I make it a point to savor each bite…makes the work much more pleasant when I’m tasting delicious flavors at the same time.

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