Deconstructing Aviary’s Sweet and Sour Monkfish

We investigate the sweet and the sour in this Northeast Portland restaurant's elevated Cantonese classic.

By Benjamin Tepler April 10, 2013

Welcome back to Anatomy of a Dish, our weekly dissection of Portland’s most delicious, multi-layered creations. This week we uncover the sweet and sour secrets that drive Aviary's Cantonese-influenced monkfish dish. Instead of pork, Aviary chef Sarah Pliner uses firm, supple monkfish and adds intense smoked pineapple and fiery chile oil to the equation. The inspiration? “I was thinking about the sweet and sour pork you find at the mall…the really bad pink stuff with cashews and pineapple. But I wanted to stay true to the authentic Chinese dish, so I used black vinegar and chile oil.” 

Pork Dumpling: A wonton dumpling stuffed with pork sausage, smoked pineapple, jicama, green beans, crème fraiche and cilantro.  The resulting package is sweet, fruity, and incredibly smoky.

Monkfish: Dredged in cornstarch, pan fried, and basted with pineapple juice, black vinegar, fresh Fresno chile peppers, ginger and soy sauce, this sizeable hunk of monkfish brings new meaning to the classic sweet and sour combination.  

Monkfish Liver: With the texture of foie gras and the oceanic undertones of uni, Aviary’s liver is marinated in sake, mirin, soy sauce and milk before being rolled into logs, cooked in a water bath, and sprinkled with Portuguese sea salt.

Garlic Chives: AKA Chinese chives or gow choy, sold in Asian markets with glasslike leaves and a pungent garlic flavor. 

Chile Oil: A clear, fiery grape seed oil infused with Sichuan peppercorn, cinnamon, star anise and dried Thai chiles.

1733 NE Alberta St.
Mon-Thurs: 5-10pm
Fri-Sat: 5-11pm

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