Fish and chips is an iconic British snack and the traditional dipping sauce is vinegar. We’ve made fish and chips several times at home and the most memorable so far had beer batter. This one, cooked by Alex, has so many herbs and spices in the batter. And there were three dipping sauces to go with the fish and shrimps. Her idea — think buffalo chicken wings but with fish and shrimps instead of chicken.
When Alex declared she was making battered fish and shrimps with homemade fries on the side, she also decided she was going to the market to buy the ingredients. She doesn’t balk at seeing raw fish and slabs of meat hanging in oversized hooks anymore but when I brought her to the catfish monger, she saw the catfish trashing around inside a net and she squirmed. Okay, perhaps that takes a little getting used to. A few more trips to the market and she’ll be okay with that.
Alex chose the shrimps and, instead of having fresh catfish filleted, I chose Pangasius, more popularly known as Cream Dory. We don’t buy frozen Cream Dory anymore because the fish too often tastes and smells of ammonia. I don’t what they do to bleach Cream Dory — whatever it is, it leaves a nasty taste and odor. But I do love fresh Cream Dory especially when the fish is large and the flesh is marbled with fat.
Back home, I taught Alex how to cut the fish and prep the shrimps. She did the rest by herself.
Below is the recipe for the batter that she used. It’s enough for half a kilo of shrimps (that’s the weight before the shrimps were shelled) and about 3/4 kilo of fish fillets. She mixed the Italian seasoning herself because she’s very particular about which herb should dominate and which should not. I will write about that soon.
Use as much Italian seasoning, pepper and cayenne powder as you like. Taste the batter as you mix to get the perfect blend.
Spice-and-herb-batter for fish (and shrimps!)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder and salt)
- cayenne powder
- 1 tablespoon or so of Sriracha
- Mix the flour and cornstarch with about 3/4 cup of water.
- Add the Italian seasoning, pepper and cayenne powder. As a guide, start with two tablespoonfuls.
- Add enough milk to make a thick but pourable paste.
- Stir in the Sriracha.
- Taste. Adjust the amount of salt, if needed. If you want a stronger herb flavor, add more Italian seasoning. If you want the batter to be really hot, add more cayenne powder.
Once you have the batter you can cook the seafood. Toss the shrimps and fish fillets with about a quarter cup of cornstarch. This will make the batter stick to them better. Heat about two cups of cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. Dip each shrimp and fish fillet in the batter and cook in batches (never overcrowd the pan!)
For the three dipping sauces:
Blue cheese dip
- 1 teaspoon blue cheese
- 50 grams cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons milk
- salt to taste
- Place the cheeses and milk in a microwavable bowl and heat for about 20 seconds. Stir until smooth. Add salt to taste.
Chili cheese dip
- 1 finger chili cut into halves vertically then thinly sliced
- 30 grams cheddar
- 30 grams Havarti
- 30 grams cream cheese
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- salt to taste
- Cut all cheeses into small cubes. Alternatively, grate them.
- Place all the ingredients, except the salt, in a microwavable bowl. Heat in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir until smooth. If there are still solid pieces of cheese, return to the microwave and heat for another 10 seconds.
- Add enough salt to taste
- 30 grams cream cheese cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup plain mayonnaise
- lemon juice to taste
- salt to taste
- smoked paprika
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- In a microwavable bowl, heat the cream cheese with the mayo on HIGH for about 20 seconds. Stir until smooth.
- Drizzle in the lemon juice and add the salt. Stir. Taste. Add more lemon juice or salt, or both, as needed.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients in amounts that taste good to you.