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Soy-Marinated Chinese-Style Tilapia with Fresh Ginger and Scallions

Mariel here. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chinese takeout. Too greasy, too slick, feels too much like lead in my stomach. However, that changed when I lived in Hong Kong for a year. Having skipped good old NYC in favor of the exotic Orient, it was time to bone up on the many faces of Chinese cuisine.

Much to my surprise – and delight – I fell in love with northern Chinese fare, specifically Manchurian-style food. Spicy “Tiger” salads with peanuts, red pepper and cilantro, and shredded “Beijing” pork wraps with ginger (and more cilantro) were among my favorites at a place called Bistro Manchu in the Soho section of Hong Kong. My mouth waters now.

Since returning to New York, I haven’t really found a suitable local substitute, so Chinese has been off the menu. But the other week it struck me: I don’t need takeout to enjoy Chinese-style cuisine. I can cook now.

While I don’t pretend that the below recipe is true to the wonderful, flavorful food I ate in Hong Kong, it incorporates many of my favorite Asian ingredients. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, but I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. Oh, and normally this type of dish might be served with sea bass or black cod, but to save $$, I swapped in tilapia. It was on sale at Costco and proved to be an apt doppelganger. My mom whipped together a Crunchy Vegetarian Brown Rice Salad to be paired with this, so check it out if you need a side.

Soy-Marinated Chinese-Style Tilapia with Fresh Ginger and Scallions
Serves 5

5 tilapia fillets – $11.00
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro – $1.49

2 Tablespoons soy sauce – stock
4 Tablespoons fresh ginger, grated – $2.99
1 teaspoon sesame oil – stock

3 Tablespoons whipped light butter – stock
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated – calculated above
2 teaspoons minced garlic – stock
2 Tablespoons soy sauce – stock
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice – $0.39
2 teaspoons flour – stock
1 cup water – stock
1/2 cup chopped scallions – $0.69
Grand total assuming well-stocked pantry: $16.56
Cost per serving: $3.31

1. In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Marinade the tilapia fillets for 1-hour, uncovered at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 400-degrees

3. Prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a skillet and then stir in the ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes on medium-high heat. In a separate bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, flour and water mixing until it’s smooth. Add to the ginger/garlic mixture, stirring well – bring to a boil and then simmer immediately. Simmer until the sauce has thickened (approximately 2-4 minutes), then set aside.

4. In a glass baking pan, arrange the marinated fish and bake for 15-17 minutes until it’s flaky and golden brown.

5. Reheat the sauce on medium heat and add the chopped scallions, bring to a boil then immediately simmer for about 1 minute.

6. Spoon the sauce over the tilapia, garnish with cilantro and serve hot.