It’s really fish tempura but since I didn’t serve it with the traditional tentsuyu dipping sauce, I’d rather not call it a tempura dish. But the principle and procedure are the same — lightly seasoned fish dipped in batter then deep fried. Except that the batter contains dried herbs which make the fish fingers so aromatic. And the crisp batter looks mighty better too with those little flecks of herbs peeping through.
If you’re making this dish, I urge you to use starch for the batter. Not flour because flour-based crust turns soggy very fast. Personally, my first choice is always tapioca starch but since it’s not as easy to find as the ubiquitous corn starch, the latter will do too.
- 1/2 kilogram fish fillets (I used cream dory), cut into “fingers” about half an inch wide and 2 and 1/2 inches long
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch or potato or corn starch
- 1 tablespoon dried herbs (whatever you fancy)
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 2 cups cooking oil
- 4 tablespoons natural mustard (not Dijon-style, not the kind pre-mixed with honey either)
- 4 tablespoons honey
Start heating the oil in a wok or frying pan.
In a bowl, toss the fish with the teaspoonful of salt and quarter teaspoonful of pepper.
In another bowl, mix the starch, herbs and chili flakes with just enough iced water to form a mixture with the consistency of pancake batter.
In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey and just enough salt to create a good balance. How much salt is a matter of personal preference so I’ll leave that to you.
Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in about a teaspoonful or so of the batter. If the batter does not float within ten seconds, the oil isn’t hot enough. If the batter turns dark brown within five seconds or so, the oil is too hot. Make the necessary adjustments before you start frying your fish. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the fish fingers will soak up the oil and they will be greasy.
Dip each piece of fish in the batter and fry in hot oil. Do this in batches to prevent the fish pieces from bumping each other (you don’t want them sticking to each other) and also to prevent the temperature of the oil from dropping drastically.
Drain the fish fingers on a stack of paper towels as they cook. Fry the next batch, and so on and so forth, until all the fish fingers are cooked.
Serve the fish fingers immediately with the honey-mustard sauce on the side.