The simplest — and fastest — way to serve fish is to fry or grill it. Most people I know simply season the fish with salt and pepper then serve the fried fish with one sawsawan (dipping sauce) or another. In the Philippines, the dipping sauce is usually a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce, spiked with crushed chili and some minced garlic. I have nothing against dipping sauces. But I really think that one can go beyond salt and pepper to enhance the flavor of fish.
Granted that it is best not to overpower the natural flavors of fish with too many seasonings and spices. Still, there are herbs that can actually enhance the taste of fish. You may be thinking that adding herbs and spices to fish is simple if one were cooking a soup or a stew but how does one do it with fried fish? It’s simple — you coat the fish with the herbs.
We had fried talakitok for dinner tonight. The heads had been cooked as a soup earlier today so I fried the fish minus the heads. I made incisions on the flesh, about 1/3-inch deep, and rubbed them all over with salt. I let them sit in the fridge for an hour to allow the salt to penetrate the flesh. Then, while heating the cooking oil, I prepared the mixture that I intended to dredge the fish in.
Dried tarragon and thyme mixed with flour, pepper and sesame seeds. I stirred them all together (I should have used more herbs and less flour), dredged every surface of the fish in the mixture and I even stuffed the cavities of the fish with herbs. Then, I deep-fried the fish in very, very hot oil.
When the fish were done, I sprinkled more dried herbs over them. The moisture from the heat softened the herbs, releasing the flavors.
What can I say? We had a lovely dinner. :)