Taste Buds

Tea and Ginger Steamed Halibut
We called ourselves the Taste Buds.  Each of the twelve of us had an above-average interest in learning more about food, wine, and cooking and gathered every other month to cook and share a meal. Together we ventured into untried territory to grasp new skills, new flavors, and to deepen our appreciation for fine wine. The rotating host house conjured up a fantastic thematic menu, and we'd typically share the preparation duties.  All evening long, we'd sip great things, cook great things, eat great things and laugh. Man, did we laugh.

We took many culinary "trips around the world" together via those meals, but I learned the most at Selina's house. Selina is from China, and when she and Mike hosted, all 12 of us would gather around their huge kitchen island and Selina would start issuing duties. The traditional Chinese meals we made always involved a variety of meat, poultry and fish prepared in a multitude of ways, with incredible ingredients sourced from the Chinese community in San Fransisco where Selina's mom lived. I was fascinated by Selina's uber-seasoned heavy wok, razor-sharp knives, and still vividly recall the first time I ever wielded Selina's seriously scary huge cleaver, used to chop off heads of things or whack up a mahogany-dark sticky chicken right through the bones.

Eventually, life took me in a different direction, but I have missed my old Taste Buddies. I still even have vivid dreams about those times and those people.

In the Steamer
The other day My Baby brought home a meaty, thick piece of halibut from the fish market with the idea of steaming it in tea. My contribution was the scallion, ginger and dark savory sauce I recalled from my experience of steaming fish under Selina's tutelage. And so, a simple but brilliant meal was born.

Selina Recommends Pearl River Bridge Dark Soy, Which Has Molasses-Like Qualities

In the bottom of our steamer pan about an inch of water was brought to a boil, to which about 3 tablespoons of loose-leaf oolong tea was added. In the steamer basket went half of a 2" piece of peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin matchsticks and half of 5 scallions, also cut into matchsticks upon which the fish rested. The remaining half of each smothered the top of the fish. Lidded, the fish was perfectly steamed in about 7 minutes. 

 So Delicious
The tea gave the fish a subtle perfumed quality that was ethereal. The drizzling sauce was a quick stir of about 1 tablespoon each of regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce and mirin, and one scallion, finely minced. It took longer to find the three bottles in the pantry than it did to mix up the nice accompaniment.  Did I mention that besides being fresh, beautiful and tasty, this is a really fast meal to prepare?

We served the fish atop steamed jasmine rice and a stir-fry of green beans, shitakes and thinly sliced red pepper, giving them our very favorite treatment. (We love these beans so much, we wrote about them in our very first ever blog post, and references to them show up regularly. I learned the basic formula from another Taste Bud, Kathy.)

Abacela 2009 Viognier, Estate Grown in the Umpqua Valley

I give credit to those fun Taste Bud years for laying a great foundation for my passion for wine. Now, it wouldn't be dinner if My Baby (and forever Taste Bud) and I didn't discuss the wine pairing options throughout the afternoon leading up to our meal. He had several really good ideas for this match up, but landed on the Abacela 2009 Estate Viognier. Abacela's trailblazers, Earl and Hilda Jones, are famed for putting Tempranillo on the map in Southern Oregon, and produce lovely wines. Their Viognier bears only slight tropical notes usually associated with Viognier, leaning to more of a ripe pear and apricot fruitiness. The perfumey nose is heavenly, and it's roundness is lifted beautifully with its mid-level acidity which balanced really, really nicely with this lean springtime meal.

Cheers to my old Taste Buddies! I wonder what you are cooking and drinking these days, and hope each of your are happy and well.


  1. OH WOW! That Halibut looks incredible! I am bookmarking to try this for sure (and I don't say that often)!! Soy sauce and fish is such a great combo- maybe even a little lemon... thanks!!

  2. Gorgeous picture at the head of this post!

  3. Actually I mean the picture of glasses against a window. Lovely.

  4. This sounds like a great way to prepare halibut. And healthy, too.

  5. Yum, yum, love this recipe :)

  6. What a wonderful group of people. I can't think of a better way to explore other cultures then through food. There are very few mediums which break down walls like food.

  7. Yum, I love a good piece of halibut! Sounds like a wonderful way to prepare it.

  8. Looks like a lovely meal... I love halibut and your presentation is beautiful!

  9. This fish looks stunning! I love the idea of using tea. I'm going to have to try that. The veg looks super tasty as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Oh, Abacela is quickly becoming one of my favorite wineries. And...funny enough, my father-in-law just introduced me to Pearl River dark soy sauce this week! I need to get a bottle. Its delicious. As always, love your blog.

  11. We have friends that enjoy doing some of the same things. I already look back and know for sure how lucky I am to be living the life that I am.

    The fish does look great and I have a white fish meal on deck for later in the week. Now I have a recipe.


  12. Sounds like a great group of foodies and such wonderful meals together. This looks good.


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