Saturday, May 9, 2009

Monchong in a Coconut Cream Spinach Sauce (It Only Looks Decadent!) & Giveaway #2

Much as I try to eat light and healthy, sometimes I get cravings for something creamy and indulgent. Whole Foods had some local monchong on sale this week and I got a couple of small fillets. Monchong, called pomfret outside of Hawaii, are a deep water fish. They have a firm, pinkish white flesh with a fairly high oil content, which makes it moist and perfect for broiling, sauteing or baking. Looking for some cooking ideas for local fish, I was thumbing through Sam Choy's Island Flavors where a recipe for Coconut Cream Spinach Sauce caught my eye. Now if you are not familiar with Sam Choy, he isn't exactly known for diet food, he is a full-fat, big portion kind of guy. This recipe reflects that with the really only healthy things in it being the onion and the spinach. I got to wondering if I could make a lower calorie, lower fat version that still tasted decadent using my new favorite thickener, brown rice flour. 

I reduced the amount of the sauce by about a third, to make enough for 2-3 fillets and added a bit more zip with some garlic, ginger and lime. (Sam's original recipe is directly below and my version follows in blue).

Sam's Original Recipe: 
Coconut Cream Spinach Sauce
Sam Choy's Island Flavors
(Makes 5 1/4 cups)

3 tablespoons butter 
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 medium onion, minced
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups canned, unsweetened coconut milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp water, if needed for thickening
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the spinach and onion and cook while stirring for 4-5 minutes, until onion becomes translucent. Add the heavy cream. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk. Cook for another 2 minutes. If the sauce is thin, add some cornstarch mixture and cook for another minute. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep warm.


My Lighter Version:
Lite Coconut Cream Spinach Sauce 
Adapted from Sam Choy's island Flavors and "healthified" by Deb
(Makes about 1 3/4 cups)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 Tbsp brown rice flour
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1 Tbsp lime juice and zest from 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, cooking while stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and spinach and continue to cook while stirring for another 2-3 minutes, until onion becomes translucent. Add the lite coconut milk, bring to a just a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. In a small bowl mix the brown rice flour and non-fat milk thoroughly and add mixture to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add the lime juice and zest and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

For the Monchong in a Coconut Cream Spinach Sauce:

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper the monchong (or other firm fish) fillets and place in pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes per side (depending on size and thickness of fillets), until fish is just cooked through. Place some cooked rice in a bowl, spoon about 1/4 cup of the sauce on top of rice and top with fish. Place another 1/4 cup of the sauce on top of the fish and rice and garnish with chopped cilantro or Thai basil and a little toasted mac nuts and coconut flakes if desired. 

Notes/Results: I have to say "Wowza!" This was REALLY good. The sauce was perfectly decadent, rich and creamy. Doing a very quick, rough calculation, 1/2 cup of Sam's sauce would be about 285 calories and I/2 cup of my lightened up version would clock in at about 154 calories. Not to mention the drastic reduction in saturated fat. I left the full two cups of spinach in my recipe, (not reducing the amount as I did the other ingredients), to add more nutrients. The added garlic, ginger and lime gave it some extra zip. I served the sauce over some rice and the sauteed monchong and garnished it with some chopped Thai basil and a bit of toasted mac nuts and toasted coconut for a bit of texture. (Yes, there are calories and fat in the nuts and coconut, but they are the good for you kind and a little goes a long way!). I am loving the sauces I have been able to make using brown rice flour--it really works well as a thickener. This is a keeper recipe and would work on all kinds of fish. 


And on to the important stuff, Giveaway #2 to celebrate my Blogoversary and 300th post. This week we are going local with a Hawaii cookbook; Hawai'i's Best Salads, Sides and Soups by Jean Watanabe Hee. (I was given a second copy of this book and in the spirit of sharing, I am passing it on to one of you). It is a fun little book, full of good recipes, many with simple ingredients you can find even if you don't live in Hawaii. To make it even better, I am giving you something fun to sprinkle on some of those veggies and meats, a package of Black Lava Sea Salt from the Island of Molokai. This finishing salt is delicious on all kinds of things, (I like it on veggies and especially sprinkled on edamame). It contains Pacific and Hawaiian sea salts, pure activated charcoal (a proven anti-toxin and digestive aid), and the company's special blend of Hawaii Kai Ocean Essence; a mixture of ocean electrolytes, trace minerals and elements.

How can you win this fun book and the finishing salt? Just leave a comment on this post and since the cookbook is about salads, sides and soups, tell me your favorite(s) is in one (or more) of those categories. You have until Noon (HST) on Wednesday (May 13th)

The winner will be randomly drawn from the comments and announced on Thursday, May 14th. The prize will be sent out once I have the winner's mailing address. You can enter to win regardless of where in the world you live (as long as you can get mail!) and you can enter even if you don't have a blog. Pretty easy! You are welcome to tell your friends and family about the giveaway so they can enter.

Good Luck & Happy Weekend!


  1. The fish dish looks so delicious and I love that you made a low fat version (I'm guessing that the sauce would be good with any kind of thicker fish)
    As to the soups, sides and salads part of your post:
    My favorite soup is roasted corn and chicken chowder, side is scallopped potatoes and salad is a tomato, basil, chickpea one.

  2. This food looks seriously awesome (decadent're right)!

    Asking me to choose my favorite soup is like asking me to choose my favorite child (!)... but Tortilla Soup never fails to make me want another bowl! Or maybe Tuscan Bread Soup. Oh, or maybe Manhattan Clam Chowder. Oh...

  3. I love that cookbook (one of my mom's recipes is in there)...your mongchong looks delicious!

  4. Honestly, you had me at coconut cream. Your lighter version looks great, if I am the sweet potato queen you are the Healthifying Queen! Although that doesn't even do you justice. I am going to think on it and come up with a catchier name.

    Let's see my favorite salad: is caprese salad - mozzarella, tomato, and basil with vinegar.

    My favorite soup (even though I am not a HUGE soup lover): is butternut squash soup.

    My favorite side: is a loaded sweet potato (stuffed with marshmallows and brown sugar/butter sauce).

  5. Choosing a favorite soup would be very hard since I don't really have a prejudice against any soup. It is probably one of my favorite genres of food. Tortilla or broccoli cheddar would be on my top 10, I suppose.

    The Coconut Cream spinach sauce looks amazing! It makes me miss the tropics. We used to eat at Sam choy's restaurant fairly often when we lived on Guam.

  6. that spinach looks and sounds delicious! i have a sam choy book but i haven't cooked out of it, as you say they are not health friendly recipes! :)

  7. What a great post! I absolutely love the spinach sauce. Unbelievable.

  8. I love that you healthified this recipe! It looks delicious!

    I'm hoping there's a recipe for mac salad in that book - I LOVE that stuff!! I have yet to be able to make one that reminds me of Hawaii.

  9. You are the queen of taking great food and making it healthy! I have never heard of mongchong either, I learn so much from you!
    For soup.. I like the classics, homemade chicken noodle or French onion, mmmm..

  10. This looks delicious, thank goodness for the lightened version LOL.

  11. Thank you so much for the lighter version - the original sounds absolutely incredible but with all that butter, cream and coconut milk, I'd be exhausted making up for it at the gym!

    I am definitely a soup girl; I love all kinds but my favorite would have to be she-crab soup - so very creamy and decadent but absolutely delicious. It's the first thing I order whenever we've visited in North and South Carolinas, and Georgia.

  12. My favourite side has to be roasted root vegetables. All winter I eat them probably once a week. They're so tasty and packed with healthy nutrients so they're pretty guilt-free!

  13. I am behind, again, so I am going to comment here about how beautiful your tff meal was (as usual)and enter your contest in the same comment. I love all salads, but my friend Kristin makes a great salad with everything she can find in it and some kind of seasoning she sprinkles over the top- delish!!

  14. today's recipe looks so good! i can't wait to try it out in my own kitchen. thanks for doing another giveaway! my favorite soup has to be tomato beef stew with big & hearty chunks of veggies and beef. i also like to add in some rice. o YUM!

  15. I just discovered your blog today and the fish with coconut cream and spinach looks and sounds amazing. I like how you lightened it up and think I will try it your way first. I actually think it sounds better in the ightened version.

  16. Wow... I stumbled in looking for a new way to use the arugula and radishes that are ready in my garden- but I think I'll be back again and again!

    I love soups and salads. Maryland crab soup is a long-standing favorite; but a recent cauliflower soup was sooo good too. A friend's raw broccoli salad is a current favorite. Yum!

  17. Thanks for the giveaway. My favorite soup is definitely a ham and bean soup.

    zekks at yahoo dot com

  18. Gosh that looks absolutely delicious. My favorite soup has to be Tamarind soup. Just the smell of it makes me go back to the hanna butta days.

  19. What a nice adaptation of a heavy sounding recipe.
    Congrats on your 300th post!
    My favorite is probably a simple asparagus soup with cream :)

  20. Oops.. I realized I never mentioned a favorite soup, salad or side in my previous comment... soup would be Tom Kar Soup (a spicy Coconut laced Thai soup), salad would be anything with avocado or rocket leaves in it. I tend to choose salad as my side dish anyway.

  21. Hi Deb. Amy & I miss you!
    The Fish looks delish! I love your lightening up of things you do it with a good sense of what should stay and what can go from dishes.
    My fave rave soup is potato leek (chilled for Spring), Side = Good Guacamole (Avos, lime, salt and pepper only!), Salad=Cinco de Mayo Slaw (cabbage, carrots, + green onions in a no fat cumin and cider vinegar dressing...YUM.


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