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Russell Siu


Russell Siu
Chef/owner, 3660 On The Rise, Kaimuki
Olive Oil Poached ‘Opakapaka

All Photos:Oliver Konig

Russell Siu is a celebrated chef and restaurateur, often seen working the line in 3660, his Kaimukï bistro, and keeping his hands on the workings of his Kaka'ako Kitchen at Ward Centre and Kaka'ako Kitchen Express at the airport.

"I like to keep things simple and I like to use the freshest products I can get," says Siu of his Euro-Asian style of cooking. "I don't like to mask the natural flavors of the protein. I do like working with seafood, because there are more combinations and possibilities than with beef."

Use tongs to remove bag from water

For his recipe, Siu chose poached 'öpakapaka, an Island fish that marries well with herbs, tomatoes and fennel. "Poaching is probably the cleanest, healthiest cooking method," Siu explains. But instead of immersing the fish in a seasoned liquid, Siu poached his fish in a plastic bag filled with aromatics, with a little olive oil to seal in flavors. This also allowed the chef to sear the fish in a very hot pan with olive oil, adding color and caramelization for flavor. The sealed bag is dropped into a pot of boiling water and simmered for several minutes. Out comes a ready-to-eat, flavorful dish that is complemented by a ragout of tomato and fennel.

This preparation reflects the way the trim and fit Siu eats. "I don't eat a lot of rich foods. I like to eat a big lunch around 1 p.m. and a bowl of soup or salad for dinner. If I eat late at night, I gain weight." For Siu, light and healthy is his mantra; with these dishes, you can add tasty, too.

Olive Oil Poached 'Opakapaka

Serves four

4 portions 'o-pakapaka, about 6 ounces each (1 1/2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons shallots, cut into julienne
1 sprig thyme
6 basil leaves
1/2 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Season the fish with salt and pepper on one side. Heat sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add three tablespoons olive oil. Place fish in the pan, seasoned side down. Season other side with salt and pepper. Sear each side for about one minute, just to brown. Remove from pan and cool. Do not wash pan.

Fish and flavorings are all in the bag.

While fish is cooling, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When fish is cool, place in a gallon-size, freezer-weight plastic sealable bag. Add shallots, thyme, basil and garlic. Pour in olive oil and seal bag. Drop bag into water and turn heat down to medium low so that water is simmering. Poach fish for about nine minutes (less for thinner cuts, more for thicker cuts). Carefully remove the bag from the water and transfer fish to serving plate. Drizzle the cooking liquid around the fish. Top with tomato and fennel ragout and serve immediately.

Tomato and Fennel Ragout

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bulb fennel, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 whole vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and cut into large dice
1 tablespoon basil, cut into fine julienne
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon parsley, chopped fine

Heat the same pan in which the fish was seared and add the olive oil. Add fennel, onion and shallots and sauté for two minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Add tomatoes and basil and gently mix together. Continue to cook over high heat until most of the liquid is reduced. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with parsley.

Chef Siu's tips:

In place of 'o-pakapaka, use Chilean sea bass, uhu (parrot fish), mahimahi or other firm, fatty fish.

Season the fish on one side with salt and pepper and place that side down in the pan. Then season the second side. This way you don't lose any salt and pepper as you handle the fish.

To peel tomatoes easily, remove the core and cut an X at the other end of the tomato. Drop tomato into a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon, cool and peel.

To cut basil into fine julienne, stack the leaves on top of each other, roll up and cut into fine shreds.

Plastic bags-not plastic wrap-are a great way to cook foods and heat up leftovers in a pot of water. (Avoid using them in a microwave.)

To make this even more calorie-light, use white wine or a combination of stock (fish or chicken) and white wine in place of the oil in the bag.

This is a great make-ahead dish: Prepare pouches of seasoned fish ahead of time and leave them in the refrigerator. Drop them into a pot of boiling water just before serving.

You can change the flavorings in the pouch for a nice flavor twist. For example, use a little sesame oil, soy sauce, cilantro, green onions and ginger for a Chinese-style dish. Use this method for poaching chicken breasts, too.

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