“Ray Spines”, sounds like the name an author might inflict on a dodgeball insurance salesman who wears a Hawaiian shirt and a pork pie hat. His long suffering wife would have to be called Barb and he would have a minor role in a particularly gruesome murder mystery. That’s one Ray Spines for you. My ray spines are a different kettle of fish. Let me back the boat up a bit.
I was in my local fishmonger, George’s Fish Shop in Monkstown Farm on Dublin’s south side. The business is now run by the late George Richardson’s children, Lisa, Graham and Darren. They have a multi-generational attachment with the fishing industry and they all know their cockles from their muscles, as it were. This really helps when it comes to trying out the unusual and interesting. On my most recent trip, I was lucky enough to get some ray cheeks and to have Graham convince me that I needed to try the ray spines too. I’m glad I did. I decided to give the spines and cheeks an Oriental treatment and cooked a dish of Ray Cheeks and Spines in Black Bean Sauce. If you ever find yourself with access to either cheeks or spines, give this a go.
- 300 gms of ray cheeks and spines
- 1 heaped tablespoon of preserved black beans
- 1 tablespoon of rice wine
- 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of cornflour (cornstarch)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 5cm of ginger root
- 2 red chillis
- 200 gms of soft stem broccoli
- 2 tablespoons of oil for frying
The first thing to do is to reconstitute the black beans. Do this by pouring over some boiling water and letting them sit for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
The fish doesn’t take a lot of cooking. Neither does the broccoli. Steam the broccoli until it gets a hot green colour. Then dip it in iced water to arrest cooking. Drain the black beans. Slice the ginger and garlic up nice and fine. Do likewise with the chillis.
Heat the oil in a hot wok. Dust the fish with the corn flour. Fry until golden and just undercooked. Reserve and keep warm.
Add the garlic, ginger and chillis. Stir for about 30 seconds. A nice aroma will lift your senses. Add the rice wine and stir until it heats enough to allow the alcohol to cook off (just below boiling). Add the soy sauce and stir to combine. Add the black beans and stir.
Add back the fish and add the broccoli. Stir to warm through.
Serve over Thai fragrant rice. Ray Spines may be rarer than a crim in a cheap detective novel. They are delicious and worth cooking when you can get them.
We served bowls of rice and a central ‘fish’ plate. There is little evidence that Ray Spines was ever here. Talk to your fishmonger or a librarian. Enjoy this. It is a real treat.