Friday, December 3, 2010

Recipe #60: fried tilapia with green sauce (salsa verde)

My parents grew up in Taiwan. When they were younger, the Taiwanese economy was not as strong as it is now. Everyone was on a budget, and commodities had to be carefully rationed. At that time, tilapia was a staple food for the middle class; it was both affordable and high in protein. There were many ways to prepare tilapia, so it was highly welcomed. Even after my parents moved to America, their love for tilapia has not changed.

On day, we saw fried tilapia at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. My mother immediately ordered it. As soon as the crispy, freshly-fried tilapia was brought onto the table, all of us grabbed a chunk of it, eager to dip them in the green sauce. To my mother, it was the best sauce she's ever tasted.

Ever since then, we have started preparing tilapia this way. In our home, we have an additional method of making this dish.

Ingredients (tilapia)

1. 1 tilapia, cleaned (guts must be removed)
2. oil for frying
3. 1/2 c. flour (for breading)

Directions (tilapia)

1. Pat tilapia dry with a paper towel.
2. Using a knife, cut two or three gashes in both sides of the fish, at an angle.
3. Fill a large skillet with oil; using medium-high, gradually heat until oil is hot.
4. Spread flour evenly on large plate. Put fish on flour and press until bottom has gathered enough flour. Flip fish over and repeat.
5. Put fish into oil fry until golden brown.

Tips (green sauce)

1. If you are using a skillet, the flour will make the fish more crispy and reduce the time needed for frying. If you are using a deep pot, then the flour is not needed; you can use the cleaned fish directly.
2. If you don't cut the fish open, it will be too thick; in other words, the interior of the fish may be still raw while the outside is golden brown.
3. Some Chinese supermarkets will fry the fish for you; ask the fishmonger if the store has this service. However, supermarkets have the tendency to reuse oil for frying, which is less healthy and has a lower quality.

Ingredients (green sauce)

1. 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2. 6 tomatillos, cooked in water until tender, chopped (canned is OK)
3. 4 chilis serrano
4. 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
5. pinch of salt
6. 1/2 tsp. mild chili powder
7. 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
8. 2 c. water
9. 1 Tbsp. onion, chopped
10. 1 Tbsp. cilantro
11. 1 fresno pepper, chopped (optional)

Directions (green sauce)

1. Boil water in pot. Add tomatillos and cook briefly.
2. Remove skin; add garlic, serrano onion and a pinch of salt; puree mixture with blender.
2. Heat a little oil in a deep skillet. Add above mixture and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes or until it has thickened.
3. If you want the sauce to be spicy, you can add cumin and chili powder.
4. Add chopped fresno chilis and mix well for best presentation.
5. Serve as a side with tilapia.

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