There have been plenty of misrepresentations about the butterfish. I've heard many people mistakenly refer to sablefish, Chilean seabass or black cod as butterfish even though they don't look remotely alike. Searching through Google's vast internet search would confuse you even more. One article states that the butterfish is also known as skipjack or dollarfish and is flat in appearance like flounder but swims vertically like a regular fish and another has it connected to cod. Huh?!
I recently spotted some fresh diamond-shaped fish that was labeled as "butterfish", for the first time at my local grocery store. I highly doubt that they were butterfish; they look more like the Chinese silver pomfret or even dollarfish. First of all, they are quite small in size, maybe 4-5 oz. each (with the head, tail and fins intact). Having not prepared this type of fish before, I decided to try cooking them using 2 methods, steamed and baked in the oven with a miso-sake glaze. Mind you, the pomfret is such a delicate fish, the meat will fall apart on you easily if not handled properly. Considering that the fish is relatively quite small, there is hardly much meat to begin with.
First, let's talk about the steamed pomfret dish. I started by marinating the fish in a mix of fish sauce and yuzu for about an hour or so, letting the tart flavors seep ever so slightly into the fish. Before steaming, I added a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil and scallions to the dish together with about 1/2 a cup of water to lessen the saltiness from the fish sauce. Steam it in the wok for approximately 20 - 30 minutes. It doesn't take long to cook as the fish is small and delicate.
Next is the baked miso-sake-glazed pomfret. Normally, a miso-sake-glazed fish should be grilled but at the time that I was preparing this dish, it was too late (and much too dark) to get the outdoor grill going. Also, this fish is so delicate and might fasll apart easily, I was afraid that grilling might not be the best cooking method for it. To prepare the glaze, you need:
3 TBP red/yellow miso
2 TBP sugar
3 TBP sake
2 TBP mirin
All the above ingredients together in a pot, bring to a boil and immediately take it off the heat and stir. Let it cool and glaze both sides of the fish with it. Turn on the oven to 350F and line your sheet pan with aluminium foil before laying the fish on it. Let it cook for approximately 30 minutes. Check often to make sure that the surface of the fish do not start to burn because of the sugar in the glaze. When it is ready, serve the fish with a side of white rice and stir-fried vegetables.
And there you have it, 2 preparations for pomfret. Enjoy!