This is one of the plenty other dishes that will always bring me down the memory lane of mine. Kids being kids, I had always loved everything deep fried and crispy that came readily packed with a crunch in every bite. And this Crispy Deep Fried Baby White Pomfret 脆皮炸白鲳鱼仔 is one of mom's regulars back then. My dad and my brother are no big fans of fish and especially so after a couple of those mini episodes of theirs with the nasty fish bones in general. Mom and I - we love everything fishy! No, not literally that of course lol.
A simple dish it sure is, but getting it done right does take a little basics set right with plenty of patience to spare. But when you have got those checked off, this is what you get - crispy, golden brown looking baby white pomfrets that need basically no effort to literally break a bone lol. And as much as most people will find this unacceptable, they're so crunchy and brittle every little part is made edible! My favorite parts? The side fins, side bones and the tail! Eww I know, but yummm lol. And all those plus just a tad of saltiness coming from the light soy sauce further enhanced in the presence of the smoky hot oil drizzled in prior to serving... super yummm lol.
Crispy Deep Fried Baby White Pomfret 脆皮炸白鲳鱼仔
4 baby white pomfrets (total weight of about 1/2lb)
~1/2 tsp salt
enough cooking oil for deep frying
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Make two slanting slits down each side of the fish. Briefly season the fish by lightly sprinkling salt on both sides. Just in case anyone wonders, nope. I don't gut them. They are so so small! lol.
2. Heat up the wok with enough cooking oil on high. Make sure the oil is well heated prior to deep frying. As usual, I have it tested with a wooden chopstick. A steam of mini bubbles seen indicates that they are ready. Give it another minute or two otherwise. Turn the heat down to medium-low.
3. Carefully lower the fish into the wok, one at a time. Depending on the size of your wok, you may have to do this in batches. Overcrowding the wok will result in a drastic drop to the oil temperature. That will be the last thing that we want in our deep frying 101.
4. Leave it to fry undisturbed. But you will want to keep a close eye on it. When it starts showing a tinge of browning, you can try to move and loosen the fish from the wok surface with a turner or a spatula. If they move at ease (probably with just a little scraping at most), they are ready. Otherwise, leave it to fry for a while more. I didn't particularly time mine, but I would say that it will probably take some good 10 minutes before you start seeing some good signs from them. Don't take my words for it though, no two woks works exactly the same after all.
5. Flip the fish over and fry the other side. The key to these crispy, crunchy and brittle fish - they need a steadily maintained medium-low heat. Too high and they brown all too fast even before they get the chance to crisp up nice and steady within. Too low and the protective seal between the fish and pool of oil will be broken; that's when we may end up with oil laden deep fried food. So back to deep frying 101 - avoid overcrowding, maintain the heat well and execute some patience with the deep frying process.
6. Once the fish starts looking golden brown on the whole, feeling a little crunchy with the touch of a turney/spatula, they are good to be removed from the oil. Lightly shake off any excessive oil before resting them on a sieve. Transfer to a cooling plate lined with paper towels.
7. In a small skillet, bring about a tbsp of cooking oil to heat on high. We are looking for some smoky hot oil here.
8. Have the fish transferred onto a serving plate. Drizzle the light soy sauce in a line over the fish. Finish by drizzling just enough smoky hot oil over the trail of light soy sauce. And look out for the satisfying sizzling sound! Serve hot!