Monday, June 17, 2013

Fish in Tomato Sauce

Another favorite from a far Ukrainian past - fish in a tomato sauce - full body sweet and sour fish stew, served cold or hot.

Blog's Category: USSR-era Recipes, International, My Staple Food

Fish in Tomato Sauce


I do not remember having many varieties of fish dishes back in Ukraine. Good quality fish we managed to have was usually very fresh and cooked in the simplest way, fried, to preserve the original great flavor of a good fish.

This fish stew, I'm talking about today, was usually cooked with a inexpensive sorts of fish, I guess, to compensate for lack of flavor with a bold, deep flavored, tomato sauce. It did a trick and stew was always one of the favorites on a tables, especially popular during celebrations, holidays, weddings, etc.

The key to the dish, of course, is the sauce. It's very important do not skimp on tomatoes (tomato paste) and achieve that perfect balance of sweet and sour adding considerable amount of sugar. It's worth to notice that some are afraid to use sugar in a cooking of savory dishes for variety of reasons. Well... everything in moderation is all right and BTW sugar is used all over the world, in all types of cuisines, and I think is a major element to bring a lot of admirers to oriental cuisines which use sugars pretty extensively.

What is it

Briefly seared fish pieces, drown in tomato sauce, are simmered/stewed for a while for flavors to incorporate into fish flesh.

Taste Description

As it's all about sauce - very tomatoey, bumped with the "must" bay leaf flavor and a good amount of sweetness. Fish, slow-cooked in this sauce, interpolate its taste into beautiful sweet-&-sourness, and create the nicest fish-tomato marriage ever known. Supplemental ingredients, onion and carrots, contribute to smooth taste and texture of the dish. Although traditionally this dish is rarely made spicy, a couple whole red chili peppers in it don't hurt - at list to my taste.

How to Serve

This fish stew is often made in advance and served next day cold as appetizer. Although we all like it right off the stove, hot, over the bowl of rice or pasta.

Fish in Tomato Sauce 

  • 2 lbs of fish fillet such white, perch, catfish or cod, cut in 2" pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 small can (4oz) of tomato paste
  • 1/3 c olive oil, flavorless
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3+ tbs sugar
  • salt to taste
  • 2-3 whole chili peppers (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 4+ cups of water

- Salt fish pieces and fry them briefly on both sides in a decent amount of olive oil. Transfer fried fish into large and shallow sauce pan.

- When all fish is fried, in the same skillet, start making sauce by adding onions and frying them until translucent for a minute or two. Then add carrot and cook, stirring, for two more minutes. Then add tomato paste, bay leaves, sugar, salt peppers and water. Continue to cook, stirring, on a medium heat until all tomato paste is dissolved. It will take about 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and sugar - it should be considerably sweet - remember, the sweetness will soften a lot when sauce will be cooked with fish later on. Also add more water if needed - we need a lot of sauce - it has to cover fish completely and be almost 1" above the fish.

- Pour sauce over the fish and place pan on a very low heat. Let it barely simmer for about 40-60 minutes with a lid ajar. .. and it's done! Enjoy!
Some Notes
- Sometimes, cooks drench fish pieces in a flour before frying it. I don't do this usually as it thickens the sauce considerable and as a bonus you leave out some unwanted calories behind!
- During simmering, fish will plump up a bit and level of sauce will get down so don't afraid to add a lot of water when making sauce.


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