Discover Cardamom: Steamed Fish with Cardamom Leaves

Creative cooks find delicious new uses for this ancient, aromatic herb.

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The papery green pods of true cardamom contain aromatic seeds, prized for cooking.

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Serves 4 to 6

To make this recipe properly, you will need a large wok or steamer. If you do not have one, divide the fish in half or thirds and steam the pieces separately. (You can hold the cooked pieces in the oven while you prepare the rest.)

• One 2-pound whole sea bass, flounder or carp, cleaned and scales removed
• Salt (preferably sea salt)
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 12 fresh cardamom leaves
• ½ cup chopped lemongrass
• 3 scallions, sliced into 1-inch pieces (white and green parts included)
• Shredded zest of half a lime
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional)
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (preferably raw sesame oil)

1. Fill bottom third of wok or vegetable steamer with water. Set steaming rack in the center; cover. Place over high heat. 

2. While steamer is heating, season fish with salt and pepper on both sides.

3. Spread half the cardamom leaves on an oval plate, large enough to hold fish. Lay fish on top. Score fish with a sharp knife at ¾-inch intervals.

4. Combine lemongrass, scallions and lime zest; scatter mixture evenly over fish. Cover with remaining cardamom leaves.

5. When steamer has filled with steam, set plate with fish inside. Cover tightly. Steam at least 15 to 20 minutes (cooking time depends on type of fish), then check for doneness. The fish is done if a skewer goes through the thickest part of the flesh easily.

6. Remove fish and set plate on a heat-proof serving platter. Peel away top cardamom leaves. Baste with fish sauce (optional). Heat oil until crackling hot. Drizzle oil over fish (it should sizzle). Serve immediately with rice and stir-fried vegetables.

William Woys Weaver is a food historian, author and contributing editor to Mother Earth News and Gourmet magazines. His classic, out-of-print book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening (Henry Holt & Co., 1997) is available on CD from Mother Earth News at www.HerbCompanion.com/shopping .

For the main article, The Spice is Right: Discover Cardamom, click here.