For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.
The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.
Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!
(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes
1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.
5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.
6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.
7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.