I used to love whole, unfilleted asohos when I was pregnant with Sam. My mother-in-law would fry small asohos to a crisp — so crisp that the heads were completely edible. But I’m hyperacidic person and there came a time when I had to stay sway from anything fried for a long, long time.
When we moved to the suburb and discovered an abundance of asohos in the local public market, I renewed my love affair with this wonderful fish. But my husband and kids often complained that the asohos had an aftertaste. Malansa. So, I stopped buying them altogether until I discovered filleted asohos in S&R a couple of years ago. S&R became Price Smart, got embroiled in litigation then closed for a couple of months. The stores reopened a month or so ago and the name is S&R once again. I don’t really care by what name it goes. The important thing is that we now have access to filleted asohos again.
I bought a pack of butterflied and filleted asohos (Sillago) with the intention of making them into fish tempura. It’s a good thing that I postponed the cooking for a few days. I saw Kylie Kwong cook shrimp tempura on her TV show the other night and she had a technique that I thought looked better than mine. So, I did what she did and we had golden, crisp fish tempura for lunch yesterday.
You can buy asohos in most wet markets but I doubt if you can get the fish monger to fillet and butterfly them for you. Most fish mongers will fillet a big fish free of charge but small fish like asohos, I’m not very sure. The ones I bought from S&R (Congressional Avenue) had been skinned, filleted and butterflied beautifully. A pack of 20 fish was more than enough for lunch.
20 pieces of asohos, heads removed, skinned, filleted and butterflied
salt and pepper
1-1/2 c. of flour
about 4 c. of vegetable cooking oil
Cooking procedure :
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
Arrange the fish in a single layer on several layers of absorbent kitchen paper to remove excess water. Transfer to a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place the flour on a large plate or shallow bowl. Holding the fish by the tail, dredge both sides of the fish in flour. Set aside.
Transfer the remaining flour to a bowl and add a little salt and pepper. Pour in enough iced water (small pieces of ice in the water will really be great) to make a thin batter — something similar to the consistency of pancake batter. Stir just enough to blend. Do NOT overmix — the lumps are fine since they will turn really crisp during frying.
When the oil starts to smoke (if it is smoking profusely, it is too hot), you can start frying the fish in batches. Four to five pieces at a time would be ideal.
Holding the fish by the tail, dip each fish in the batter, making sure that it is completely coated. If the fish was dry enough when you started and it had been properly dredged in flour, the batter should stick to it and not get all runny and drip back into the bowl.
Deep fry the batter-coated fish until golden brown, turning them over if necessary (it usually becomes necessary to turn them over if the depth of the cooking oil in the pan is not enough to make the fish float during frying), which should take about four or five minutes per batch. Use kitchen tongs to lift each fish from the hot oil and transfer directly to a plate lined with absorbent kitchen paper.
Serve with the traditional tempura dipping sauce or, if you’re in a rush like I am most of the time, you can serve the fish tempura with bottled sweet-chili sauce. My daughter Sam enjoyed her fish tempura with her onion rings dip.