Fish Cooked in Rice Paper! What a funky, and incredibly delicious idea.
I know why there was no photo of this in the cookbook though. It does look something like a blob in brown sauce. So you’ll have to trust me that this was beyond excellent.
Actually, you don’t have to just trust me. This is a Jacques Pepin recipe. You can definitely trust Jacques!
Cooking fish in rice paper is a genius idea. Rice papers are the thin, almost see through discs that you use to make Spring Rolls.
Cooking the fish in a little rice paper packet protects the tender fish and keeps it moist and juicy. It’s also more fun than just plain old fish in a pan. And unlike fish cooked in parchment, these packets are totally edible and delicious.
Oh…and I haven’t even gotten to the best part…the sauce!
Here’s what you need:
Fish*, Rice Papers, Soy Sauce, Fresh Tarragon (optional), Fresh Chives, Shallots, Garlic, Soy Sauce, White Wine Vinegar (or Rice Wine Vinegar) Tabasco Sauce, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Salt & Pepper.
Seems like a lot of stuff but both the fish and the sauce come together very quickly. This is actually a very easy and simple dish to make. After you’ve made it the first time, you can crank this out in 15 minutes. Perfect to blow everyone away on a weeknight.
Finely chop 2 Tablespoons of fresh chives (fresh is a must) and 1 Tablespoon of fresh Tarragon. I would NOT substitute dried herbs in this recipe.
The tarragon was nice but not a huge flavor here so if you don’t have it on hand, you can skip it.
Fish. I have cod. You want a nice white, flaky fish but something that has a little heft to it. Look for a boneless fillet that is about 1 inch thick. You need a chunk of fish for each packet. Grouper, Mahi, or Haddock would also be good fish to try. Super thin fish fillets like tilapia, sole, or swai will NOT work for this recipe.
Cut the fish into 4 portions and season lightly with salt, pepper, and the chopped tarragon. I plan on about 6-8 ounces of fish per person.
Note: This fish is not at its best leftover so I would only cook what you intend to eat. The sauce WILL keep, so if you have extra fish, it is best to leave it in the fridge, make up new packets and cook them fresh when you want to eat the leftovers.
For the sauce, finely chop 2 medium shallots (or 1 large – about ¼ cup).
Place the chopped shallots in a small bowl with the chopped chives. Use a garlic press (or very finely mince) to add 1 clove of garlic.
I dig out the garlic press for things like sauces and salad dressings that use raw garlic. It’s a good way to be sure that no one gets a big hunk of garlic in their bite of food. The press also releases more juice from the garlic for extra flavor.
Add 3 Tablespoons of White Wine (or Rice Wine) Vinegar, ¼ cup of soy sauce (tamari if you are gluten free),
1 teaspoon of sugar, and 2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce (about ¼ teaspoon if you want to measure).
Stir the sauce to combine and let it rest at room temperature while you make the fish packets.
If you’re not familiar with rice papers, they come in hard discs that have to be re-hydrated VERY QUICKLY before use.
I fill up a saute pan with water and soak the disc turning it over once or twice. This only takes about 1 minute.
You will notice that the disc has a printed texture on it. This will help you to know when it is getting soft enough to use. I use my fingers to gently feel the texture. Just as the texture is starting to dissolve, the discs are ready. Don’t get them totally soft and soggy or they will tear and be a disaster.
The good news is that they are cheap so if you have a paper fall apart, toss it out and try again.
You can see here that the edge of my disc still has the texture visible. Err on the side of less soaking time as the discs will continue to absorb water as you work with them.
I know this sounds fussy, but honestly you only have to get your hands on one or two of these to see what I’m talking about. This is much easier than it sounds.
Place the softened rice paper on a plate and place a portion of the seasoned fish in the center.
Fold up the sides to make a cute little package. The rice paper will stick together to seal the edges.
You can do this part ahead and keep the rice paper fish packets under a damp paper towel in the refrigerator.
Heat 1 Tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet. A non-stick pan is a must here. Place the fish packets in the pan seam side down and saute , uncovered, over medium high heat for about 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Gently turn them over to brown the other side and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set aside for 4 more minutes to allow the residual heat in the pan to continue cooking the fish.
Like my lid? Hey, whatever works!
When you are ready to serve, put a spoonful of sauce on the plate,
place the fish on top of the sauce, and drizzle a little extra sauce over the top.
Add a green veg and a small salad and you have a light, and extremely flavorful and healthy dinner.
This is one of the best fish dishes I’ve ever had. It’s incredibly easy but feels and tastes like fancy restaurant food. Jim and I both kept saying, “Why is this so good?”
I know why. Jacques Pepin! Julia Child gets all the glory but there is a reason that she and Jacques were such good friends. If you love cookbooks, you need to add this to your collection ASAP.
(Plus he has a daughter named Claudine!)
Here’s the recipe: Adapted from Essential Pepin