On one of our trips from Saigon, we went to a charming fishing village called Long Hai, where we stayed in a Vietnamese Government-run hotel. It was a mock French château built in the late 1940s by a millionaire. He needed a remote hideaway for his daughter, who had leprosy. Today it has been stripped of its former finery and has all the comforts of the sort of hostel that I imagine George Orwell stayed in when he was researching Down and Out in Paris and London! From the roof of the hotel there was a spectacular view of the little town, very French in style (in colonial times it was a holiday resort), and of the long, curving beach, where each morning just after dawn the fishing fleet unloaded their catch for the market, which was held on the beach. It was on the same roof, one sunny morning, that I prepared the following dish.
Put all the stock ingredients into a large pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Cool slightly, then strain through a fine sieve back into the pan. Boil the fish stock and pour into a hot steamer or a pan over which you can set a bamboo steamer.
Put the okra or whatever you are using, tomatoes, chillies, pineapple and taro or radish into the top half of the steamer, about 5-8 minutes before serving so that they cook very slightly and remain crunchy.
Add the deep-fried fish pieces and scatter the herbs on top.
Heat for about 5 minutes and lift out on to one large serving dish or individual plates. Garnish with the deep-fried onion and garlic.
© 1994 Keith Floyd estate. All rights reserved.