Chosen Bites: Marvelous and meatless

This classic Chinese recipe for whole crispy fish is spectacular enough for a festive meal, but easy enough for any day.

July 16, 2013 11:45
4 minute read.
Whole Crispy Fish

Whole Crispy Fish. (photo credit: Laura Frankel)

Don’t be intimidated, cooking a whole fish is simple and delicious. This simple recipe makes a jaw dropping-presentation with a lip-smacking sauce.

Have your fish monger clean the fish for you. Make sure your oil is very hot and fearlessly fry away. The skin become crispy, the flesh tender and any remaining bones are as crunchy as potato chips.

This classic Chinese recipe is spectacular enough for a festive meal, but easy enough for any day.

Whole Crispy Fish With Sichuan Sauce

This delicious mouth-watering crispy fish is not just for the 9 days, but for any day.

The "wow" presentation is dramatic enough for a VIP dinner or a casual weeknight.
The fish skin is crispy and the flesh delicious and flavorful. Any remaining bones also get crispy and can be eaten along with the flesh. My husband even eats the tail like potato chips.

The savory sauce is aromatic and just spicy enough to wake up your palate. I use a really good quality soy sauce that is not salty, but instead is earthy and complex.

Serve the fish with steamed rice, noodles and your favorite vegetables.

For a dramatic presentation, mound rice on a platter and stand the fish up in the mound of rice. Drizzle the sauce over the fish and serve.

2 whole fish (about 1 ½ pounds each), gutted, scaled (I use Red snapper or Black Bass)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons corn starch
About 2 cups peanut oil or other oil appropriate for high heat cooking

For the sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 scallions/ green onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon high quality soy sauce (I use Raw Organic NamaShoyu)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

1. Pat dry the fish and season it, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Dust the outside of the fish with cornstarch.

2. Heat enough oil for the fish to be mostly submerged in a wok over high heat. Place the fish in the hot oil (182 C) and fry on one side for about 8-10 minutes until the fish is crispy and browned. Carefully turn the fish over (I use a spatula in one hand and tongs in the other) and fry for another 6-8 minutes until crispy. Repeat with the other fish.

3. Remove most of the oil from the wok and reduce the heat to medium. Add the ingredients for the sauce and cook for about five minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the sugar is completely dissolved.

4. Place the fish on a platter and pour the sauce over. Serve immediately.

5. To eat the fish, cut the fish into slices across the body and serve over rice or noodles.

Dry Fried Chinese Beans
Serves 4

Something magical happens in the wok when there is very little fat added to it. The vegetables begin to take on a charred flavor that is similar to being grilled.
I like to use this technique with Chinese long beans, carrots, broccoli and other dry vegetables. Peppers and other high water content vegetables will steam themselves and do not work for this technique.

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 ½ pounds Chinese long beans or green beans (completely dry)
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1. Heat a wok or large sauté pan over very high heat. Add the sesame oil and swirl around to coat the pan.

2. Add the beans and stir fry the beans for about three minutes until they begin to char. They will darken and start to smell almost grilled. Add the garlic and sesame seeds and stir fry for another minute.

3.Immediately platter the beans and serve.

Lo Mein Noodles
Serves 4

This is a delicious, quick and easy side. Try to source out fresh Lo Mein noodles. Chinese noodles have a wonderful chewy texture that is addicting and completely different from traditional pasta. I serve this side hot, warm and cold. The noodles are amazing as a pasta salad.

For the sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil plus additional for the noodles
3 tablespoons best quality soy sauce
2 teaspoons Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane

For the noodles
1 pound fresh lo mein noodles or regular fresh pasta (usually found in Asian grocery stores)
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
½ cup grated carrots
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Whisk the sauce ingredients together until emulsified.

2. Cook the lomein in salted boiling water until cooked through. Drain and toss with a little sesame oil while still warm.

3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and arrange on a platter. Top the noodles with the scallions, carrots and sesame seeds.

Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.

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