23 May2014

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We normally steam apahap or local sea bass (it’s a relative of Australian barramundi btw) with some ginger, soy and sesame oil. It seems an ideal way to enjoy the creamy white flesh and mild flavor of the fish. But I recently wondered if frying the fish would yield palatable results.

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Gut and scale a 500gram or so apahap (serves 3-4 roughly) and season with some salt and pepper all over and inside the stomach cavity. Cut diagonal slits on the side of the fish for more even cooking. Lightly coat with flour or cornstarch and deep fry in vegetable oil (or lard) for a few minutes on each side until the skin is crisp, lightly golden yet the meat remains moist. I can’t tell you exactly how long this will take, but it’s perhaps 4-5 minutes per side, or even less for a thinner fish. Meanwhile, make a classic Pinoy sweet and sour sauce with tomatoes, ginger, onions, garlic, sweet bell peppers, vinegar, a touch of sugar, salt and pepper.

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Place the fish “swimming” upright on the platter if they balance that way, and spoon the sweet and sour (escabeche) sauce all around the fish. This serving method helps to preserve the crispiness of the skin and guests can take as much of the “sauce” as they like. My sauce in this version had way too many ingredients in it and not enough sauce, but you get the picture. Serve piping hot. This was incredibly delicious, almost identical to eating say a fried lapu-lapu or grouper or rock cod, which cost significantly more in the markets. For me, one of these fish and some steamed rice and nothing else would make a really hearty and satisfying lunch. Did I say serves 3-4 up top? Hmmm…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Connie C says:

    After making the slits, Chinese cooks or chefs slide the cutting knife close to the backbone creating a flap up top ( near dorsal fins) leaving some flesh still attached to the backbone . The technic makes sure the thicker flesh cooks with the rest of the fish and gives a nice butterfly effect when positioned as you did in your photo.

    Got to have a nice fishpan and a lot of oil for this deep fry! Looks dalish!!!

    May 23, 2014 | 7:56 am

     
  2. Betchay says:

    Makes sense….I mean serving the fish upright to retain crispiness. Thanks for the tip!

    May 23, 2014 | 8:31 am

     
  3. Footloose says:

    We have to reckon with three kinds of escabeche at home now: our simple Friday escabeche, the more elaborate Chinese sweet and sour fried whole fish similar to the subject of this post and the Jamaican king fish escoviche with lots and lots of onions, allspice berries and scotch bonnet. I love ‘em all.

    May 23, 2014 | 8:56 am

     
  4. may says:

    Yum! Escabeche is one fish recipe i love most, whether its escabecheng galungong, tilapia or lapu lapu. Thanks MM for the tip for a crispier escabeche.

    May 23, 2014 | 1:37 pm

     
  5. betty q. says:

    MM…at your restaurant, after making the diagonal slit, do the same on other end so you have the criss cross effect, coat it with egg white first and then dredge with cornstarch…if the fish is too long for the deep fryer, curl the tail end and deep fry upright. When done, the fish looks like it is swimming!

    May 23, 2014 | 3:05 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    Betty q, thanks for those tips… Will have to try them the next batch of experiments…

    May 23, 2014 | 5:04 pm

     
  7. Thel from Florida says:

    Wow, wow, wow–ang sarap niyan:)

    May 23, 2014 | 11:00 pm

     
  8. Stewart Sy says:

    We have barramundi available here in Vancouver, I even did their promo photos. The ones available here are farmed fish and unfortunately have a muddy flavor, not the most palatable.

    I’ll have to try this fish at your restaurant when I’m back in Cebu next year!

    S.

    May 24, 2014 | 2:53 am

     
  9. Marketman says:

    Stewart, these are farmed in General Santos or nearby location. Funny you should mention “muddy” as that was exactly my reaction several years ago when they were first introduced. Recently, however, the fish have been delicious. If I understand correctly, they are grown in brackish waters… Hence the potential muddiness.

    May 24, 2014 | 11:43 am

     
 

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