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Tea-Smoked Beer-Battered Trout and Vegetables

Servings: 4 to 6

Fish is served for Chinese New Year because it sounds similar to the Chinese word for plenty. Fish symbolizes happiness and prosperity when eaten whole and represents abundance for the year ahead. Here, the traditional fish is turned into an Western-inspired riff on fish and chips.


For the aïoli

  • 2 cups Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 6 egg yolks, pasteurized, if you like
  • 2-1/2 cups grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tea-smoked trout and vegetables

  • Banana leaf or napa cabbage leaf, for steaming
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup loose Lapsang Souchong tea leaves
  • 4 cups medium-size cauliflower florets (about 10 oz.)
  • 4 cups medium-size broccoli florets (about 7 oz.)
  • 2 whole rainbow trout, gutted and scaled (about 10 oz. each)

For the tempura frying

  • Grapeseed or canola oil, for frying (about 6 cups)
  • 3 oz. (about 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 12 oz. lager beer, such as Sam Adams
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, greens and whites separated
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make the aïoli

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the vinegars until syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
  • In a food processor, combine the garlic and yolks, and blend until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes. With the food processor running, very slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup of the oil until the mixture is emulsified; once emulsified, add the remaining oil in a steady stream. Add the lemon juice and process briefly. Set aside.
  • Fold 1/4 cup syrup (or more to taste) into 1 cup of the aïoli, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Reserve any remaining aïoli in the refrigerator, covered, for another use.

Smoke the vegetables and trout

  • Cut the banana leaf to line two tiers of a bamboo steamer; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix the rice, sugar, and tea. Line a large wok entirely with foil, and add the tea mixture. Put over high heat, and cook, undisturbed, until the sugar begins to melt, 4 to 5 minutes (you’ll start to see bubbles).
  • When the tea mixture starts to smoke, add the cauliflower and broccoli florets to the steamer baskets, and put the steamer on top of the wok. Cover, and allow the vegetables to smoke for 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl and set aside. Add one fish to each of the steamer baskets, and put the steamer on top of the wok. Cover and allow the fish to smoke for 6 minutes. Transfer the fish to a plate, and set aside.

Fry the vegetables and trout

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 200°F. Put a rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet, and set aside. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, and set aside.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the foil and the smoking mixture from the wok. Wipe the wok clean with paper towels. Add enough oil to fill the wok halfway. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reads 350°F on a digital or frying thermometer.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the beer until there are no lumps and the consistency is like pancake batter. The batter should be thick enough to coat, but excess should run off easily. Add the scallion whites, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add the cauliflower and broccoli to the batter, and toss gently to coat.
  • Carefully add the cauliflower and broccoli to the oil in batches, and fry, turning occasionally, until evenly golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon or spider skimmer, transfer the vegetables to the prepared rack, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard any fried tempura bits from the oil between batches. When the vegetables are done, transfer to the oven to keep warm.
  • Dip the fish into the remaining batter, being sure the batter coats the inside of the cavity. Fry one fish at a time until cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Transfer to the baking sheet, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the vegetables and fish to a serving platter. Sprinkle with the reserved scallion greens, and serve immediately with the aïoli.


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