I came up with this dish because the fish monger asked me if I like cheeks. I thought he meant halibut cheeks. Although halibut is in season, he offered me fresh grouper cheeks. I was delighted. The most tender part of an animal or fish are the "cheeks." Beef, veal, and lamb cheeks are especially tender. I had some lychees and knew they would make a nice relish for the grouper cheeks. The flavors of this recipe are definitely Thai or Vietnamese. This entree makes a great starter for dinner. Halibut cheeks are a delicious substitute for grouper which is harder to find.
4 pc grouper cheeks
4 lychee peeled, seeded and julienned
1/4 cup mango, julienned
1 tbsp mint, julienned
1 red radish, julienned
1 tbsp tamarind puree
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper
For the cheeks, season with salt on both sides and place skin side down in a small saute pan on medium heat with 1 tbsp of oil. Cook for 5 minutes on the skin side to crisp the skin. Flip over for 10 seconds and remove the cheeks from the pan.
Place the mango, mint, lychee, and lime juice in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, place a teaspoon of tamarind in each spoon. Place the cheeks on top. Place the lychee relish on top of the fish. If you want to add a little heat, place a serrano or thai chile slice on top. Also I tried a little roasted peanut on top, and that was a delicious variation. This appetizer or starter adds an impressive pop of taste and color to any meal.