Think lemon chicken and orange chicken. Substitute fillets of cream dory (or any mild-flavored fish), create a sauce that combines lemon and orange juices, spike with grated ginger and chili flakes, add dashes of orange and lemon extracts, and this is what this dish is like. Basically a dish of fried fish with sweet and sour fish but with citrusy aromas and flavors. And, for even added flavor and visual appeal, add herbs to the batter that coats the fish and voila!
This was my entry to the Pangasius Food Festival. I wish that the presentation could have been this pretty — with the grated zests of orange and lime — but I’ve never cooked five kilos of fish fillets all at once before so what was served at the food festival buffet looked plainer than this.
When I cooked the five-kilo version for the Pangasius Food Festival, the amounts of ingredients were very much different. Consider the recipe below as a trimmed down version adapted for home cooking.
What do you need for this dish? Fish fillets, of course. And cooking oil for frying.
To flavor the fish, you’ll need grated ginger.
And fresh orange and lemon (or lime) juice.
- 500 grams cream dory fillets sliced thinly into bite-size pieces
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (onion leaves, thyme or parsley, or all of them together, are recommended)
- 1 and 1/2 cups tapioca starch or corn starch (you may need more)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (you may need more)
- 8 ice cubes
- 2 cups vegetable cooking oil
- lime and orange zests for garnish (optional)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 bird’s eye chilies finely chopped (or use chili flakes)
- 3/4 to 1 cup sugar depending on how sweet or sour the orange juice is
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or corn starch
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Make the sauce. In a thick bottomed pan, pour in the juices. Add the sugar, salt, ginger and chilies. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until reduced and slightly thickened, about ten minutes. If the sauce is not thick enough for you, disperse a tablespoonful of starch in two tablespoonfuls of water, add to the sauce, stir and continue boiling until thickened. Set aside.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan until wisps of smoke start to appear.
In a wide shallow bowl, place about half a cup of starch.
In a mixing bowl, place half a cup of flour, a cup of starch and the ice cubes. Pour in about one-fourth cup of water. Add the chopped herbs. Mix lightly. The batter should not be too thick but thick enough to coat the fish pieces. Add more water if the batter is too thick.
Holding a fish fillet by the edge, dredge in flour then dip in batter until well coated. Carefully drop into the hot oil. Repeat and cook the fish in batches of eight to twelve. This is a very short frying method. If the temperature of the oil is right, the coating should turn lightly golden and crisp in less than three minutes by which time the fish should be cooked through.
If the batter thins out before all the fish have been fried (it will as the ice cubes melt), add more starch and flour, tablespoonful by tablespoonful, and keeping the 1:2 proportion.
As each piece of fish cooks, pick up with kitchen tongs and transfer to a strainer or a plate lines with kitchen paper.
To serve, place the fish fillets on a plate, drizzle some sauce over them, sprinkle with grated lemon or lime and orange zests. Serve the rest of the sauce on the side.