Sweet and Sour Opakapaka
The combination of pineapple and papaya in a sweet and sour sauce is one of the oldest and most beloved island preparations. This one adds orange juice, fresh ginger, and sweet peppers to flavor the delicate pink snapper. Deep-frying the whole fish in oil is a Chinese technique. “Okinawan” sweet potatoes are purple in color; regular sweet potatoes are easier to find and a good substitution.
- Okinawan - 8 oz (alt. regular sweet potatoes)
- Opakapaka - One 5 lb (red snapper), gutted and cleaned
- Cornstarch - For dusting
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Peanut Oil - 3 cups for deep-frying
- Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Orange Juice - 2 cups
- Water - 1 cup
- Cider Vinegar - 1/2 cup
- Ginger - One 1-inch piece fresh, peeled and julienned
- Ketchup - 1 cup
- Cornstarch - 1 tablespoon, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
- Peanut Oil - 2 tablespoons
- Red Bell Pepper - 1, seeded, deribbed, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Green Bell Pepper - 1, seeded, deribbed, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Shiitake Mushrooms - 1 cup, stemmed and sliced
- Pohole - 1 cup (fiddlehead ferns)
- Mung bean sprouts - 1 cup
- Pineapple - 1/2, fresh diced
- Papaya - 1/2, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Button mushrooms - 5 oz, sliced
- Ti leaf - 1 large (alt. banana leaf) (optional)
- Ti leaf - 1 medium (alt. banana leaf)
- Ogo (seaweed) - 1 cup, chopped
- Cilantro - 1 fresh sprig
- Green Onion - 1/2 cup, green part only, cut in 1/4-inch diagonal pieces
- Black Sesame Seeds - 1/4 cup
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat and add the potatoes. Boil for 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in a potato goes in easily. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
Lay four to six sheets of newspaper, doubled over, on a work surface and cover with paper towels. Rinse the fish and pat it dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, cut through the flesh to the bone, scoring the flesh in a criss-cross pattern. Dust the fish with cornstarch and season with salt and pepper. In a large wok over medium-high heat or deep fryer, heat the oil to 350 F or until rippling. Place the fish in the hot oil head first, turning the tail to the back of the pan, and cook the fish for about 5 minutes, or until the meat flakes easily. Carefully lift out with a broad skimmer or spatulas and drain on the prepared newspaper and paper towels.
To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, combine the orange juice, water, vinegar, and ginger. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low. Add the ketchup and the cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir until thickened, about 3 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
In a wok of medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and stir-fry the peppers, shiitake, and pohole (ferns) for 15 seconds. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the pineapple, papaya, and button mushrooms and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the vegetables to the sauce.
To serve: Peel and mash the potatoes. Place the ti leaf on a platter and place scoops of potato down the center. Place the whole fish on top of the potatoes, pressing it down slightly. Pour the sauce and vegetables over and around the fish. Sprinkle the back of the fish with shredded ogo and top with cilantro. Sprinkle the fish and vegetables with green onions and sesame seeds.