I had first learned about this recipe for a rhubarb-based spicy sweet sour sauce from the seasonal cookbook Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life way back in the rhubarb season of 2009. I was particularly intrigued because it'd been the first (and still the only) recipe I'd seen for using rhubarb in a savoury setting. It was originally intended for use as a sauce with pork belly and Chinese-style egg noodles with spring salady shoots. It was yummy enough, but something in my head just kept saying "this sauce is going to be amazing with stingray" (aka skate, for you Western types).
In my native Singapore stingray is often slathered in sambal belacan, wrapped in banana leaves and then BBQed (I'm salivating just thinking about it, thank God I'm due for a visit home in 2 weeks!). I figured the rhubarb sauce was going to give the silky gelatinous meaty stingray a lot of fabulous tartness and heat, but without the heavy pungence of the fermented shrimp paste in the belacan. A lighter, more assam-style taste, with a Western-hemisphere substitute for tamarind, if you will.
So I tried it, I loved it, and I've waited 2 years -- with 15 months of backpacking in between -- for rhubarb season to finally roll around again so that I could share this with you. It's a touch off the beaten track, but I hope you like it!
Ingredients for the sauce:
Makes 1 large jar, enough for 2-4 servings of stingray
400g rhubarb stems
4-6 cloves garlic
1 large thumb of ginger
1 medium sized onion
2 chillis (I like to use a mix of red and green to get different colour highlights in the sauce)
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 heaped teaspoon five spice
Directions for the sauce:
- Trim and chop up the rhubarb and place in a deep saucepan
- Peel and chop the garlic, ginger, onion and chillis, and combine with the rhubarb
- Add the honey, soy sauce and five spice
- Add just a touch of water, to wet the bottom of the sauce pan
- Use a hand mixer and blitz the mixture into a pulp
- Turn on stove to medium heat, and let the pulp cook for ~15 minutes, mostly to cook the rhubarb through and let the flavours mix
- Taste, and add honey and soy sauce as needed to get to a balanced taste that you like
- When the sauce bubbles, turn heat down to low and let simmer
Directions for the stingray:
- Start on the stingray just after you put the sauce on the stove
- Drizzle olive oil or brush butter onto both sides of the stingray, season liberally with salt and black pepper
- Turn oven on to medium-heat grill (we used a fan-grill. If your oven doesn't offer a fan function the cooking time will be a touch slower)
- Place the stingray on a sheet of foil on a tray, and grill for ~7 minutes
- Flip over the stingray and grill for another 5-7 minutes (if you like, sprinkle some finely sliced onions on the 2nd-side grill, and drizzle with a little oil. The sweet charred taste rocks)
- Check that the stingray is cooked through -- the meat pulls off very easily when it is -- and remove from grill
- Slather with the rhubarb sauce and garnish with coriander
- I've tried blitzing the sauce ingredients before cooking, and have also tried blitzing it only after cooking. I prefer the former method -- it retains a more fibruous texture rather than jammy
- I've yet to try this recipe on a charcoal grill, but if you're having a BBQ I would suggest wrapping the stingray in foil or banana leaves and BBQing for about the same amount of time.
- If wrapped up you're going to steam rather than grill the stingray, so the meat is likely to be much more gelatinous. Even more so if you slather on the sauce and cooking the stingray in it
- I'm going to experiment with what other fish this might work for. Mackeral might be a good candidate! Other ideas, folks?