As a result of my recent entry regarding Mr. Wu and his fabulous fish (sounds like a Sinatra song), I began to think, “Hmm. If that steamed red snapper was one of your favorite dishes you’ve ever eaten, why don’t you ask Mr. Wu if you can have it again?”
The reason I had not asked though was that I knew it to be a very time consuming dish, and it is not on the menu. Still, the force of craving was strong within me, so finally, when Mr. Wu routinely asked me, “Do you have a preference for dinner tonight?” , I was ready and loaded for steamed red snapper with bok choy.
Here is the true wonderment of this dish. It is not the red snapper! The bok choy is the star. (Words I never thought I would hear my self say.) In fact, that is what I requested of Mr. Wu. I asked him if he could fix some more or the bok choy.
At first he did not recollect it, and then, when he did, he told me that the reason the bok choy tasted like it did was because of the whole process of how it was cooked and what it was cooked with…sort of like life, hunh? He explained that the bok choy is wrapped around the fish after he coats the fish with a richly flavored sauce, and that then as it is steamed for an hour, then it permeates the mild cabbage, infusing it with this insanely fragrant and complex taste that is sweet and savory and spicy all at the same time. Yum.
So I said, “All good, Mr. Wu, whenever you have the time or the chance to do that, I will be grateful for it.”
When I don’t understand something, and Mr. Wu has to line it out for me, he gets pretty fretful, and gets this really worried look on his face. I could see his expression, even though we were chatting on the phone.
“No,” Mr. Wu said, “Bok choy, it tastes that way because of fish. It has to have fish, and fish has to have skin on it, and right now, I don’t have fish with skin on it, all of the fish I have right now does not have skin.”
Knowing Mr. Wu and his obsession with perfection and freshness, it may be some time before I am reunited with my dream dish, which was much more about the bok choy than it was about the fish. The bok choy is served whole, since it has been used to wrap the fish. It is so full of flavor that I actually had to ask Mr. Wu what it was, because it neither looked nor tasted like cabbage.
So now I must wait until the right fish comes along.
Mr. Wu is an extraordinary chef, and I think this truly is an indication of his mettle. He can change bok choy into a dish that ranks in the top five best things I’ve ever tasted.
I’d call that alchemy. Mr. Wu is a wizard!