In Buddhism, patience is more than a virtue; it’s one of the “six perfections” that can lead to enlightenment. I thought about that the first several times I tried this dish, which is inspired by a technique developed by chef Eric Ripert. Ripert, a practicing Buddhist, asks you to let the fish very slowly cook on one side, uncovered, in a shallow bath, which is why the French call this a l’unilateral. I guess I’m just not Zen enough, because every time I tried the technique, after 20 or 25 minutes of waiting, I was tempted to either turn up the heat, turn over the fish, or both. Because I’m not nearly as smart (or patient) as Ripert, it took far too long for me to realize that the method that better suits my temperament is a common one: Cover the fish. The most important ingredient, besides the fish, is the delicately seasoned Shaoxing cooking wine, which can be found in Asian supermarkets. It’s worth trying to find, but you can substitute Japanese mirin, dry sherry, or other Chinese rice wine, although you may need to adjust the seasoning with vinegar before you eat it. Just don’t use generic “cooking wine” you see in mainstream supermarkets; you’ll regret that, believe me.
Yield: Serves 1
1 (6- to 8-ounce) halibut fillet (about 1 inch thick)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine, plus more as needed
2 small or 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into ¼-inch half-moons (about ½ cup)
2 to 3 very small baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar, or more to taste (optional)
Pat dry the fish with paper towels and season it on both sides with salt and pepper. Pour the wine and water into a small skillet over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Whisk in the ginger, toss in the cardamom pod, and decrease the heat until the liquid is barely simmering. Place the halibut in the skillet and scatter the carrots around it, adding more wine, if necessary, until the liquid comes about ½ inch up the side of the fish. Cover and cook until the halibut is just barely cooked through and flakes easily with a fork, and the carrot pieces are just tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
Use a spatula to transfer the halibut to a plate, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the carrots. Cover the plate loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
Increase the heat under the skillet to medium-high and add the baby bok choy, tossing and swirling them in the bubbling liquid until the green sections are wilted and the white sections have just started to soften but are still somewhat crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Use the slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the baby bok choy to the plate, too.
Increase the heat to high and let the liquid continue boiling vigorously, swirling occasionally, until it becomes a sticky glaze, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste, and if the glaze is too sweet, add the vinegar to taste. Immediately pour the glaze over the fish and eat.