In newsletter #19, I mentioned Stephen Yan (no, not Martin Yan) and his cooking show called Wok with Yan that I enjoyed decades ago.
One of the best lessons from the show is how to stretch a small amount of meat to feed more people than usual. I applied the technique with fish. I had thawed 300 grams of swordfish belly fillets, there were three of us for lunch and I had to make sure that there would be more than enough for everyone.
My solution consists of two parts. Cut the fish into thin slices, cook the slices then toss in a highly flavorful sauce. Let me illustrate.
I took the still semi-frozen fillets, cut them into slices (it’s easier to cut them thinly while semi-frozen) about a quarter inch thick, pressed the slices between sheets of paper towels, and tossed them with lemon pepper seasoning. I set the fish aside to give it time to soak up the seasonings while I cooked my lemon sauce.
I melted sugar in a combination of freshly squeezed lemon juice and water, added grated lemon zest and ginger, turmeric, chili flakes, thin slices of kaffir lime leaves and a few pinches of salt. I let the mixture boil gently until syrupy then set it aside to thicken as it cooled.
I added an egg white and cornstarch to the fish, tossed everything until a light batter coated each slice then dropped the battered fish slices one by one into a pan of hot oil.
The crispy fish slices were piled on a deep plate and the sauce was drizzled over them. To add even more brightness to the dish, sliced scallions and torn mint leaves were sprinkled over the fish.
Chinese-style fish fillet with lemon sauce
- 300 grams fish fillets cut into ¼-inch slices
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning store bought
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ⅓ cup white sugar
- ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 pinches salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 pair kaffir lime leaves thinly sliced (ribs discarded)
To fry the fish
- cooking oil for deep frying
- 1 egg white
- ¼ cup cornstarch
Season the fish
- Press the fish slices between stacks of kitchen paper to remove excess water.
- Place the fish in a bowl, add the lemon pepper seasoning and toss well.
Cook the lemon sauce
- In a small sauce pan, melt the sugar with the lemon juice and a quarter cup of water.
- Add the lemon zest, ginger, salt, turmeric, chili flakes and kaffir lime leaves.
- Boil over medium heat for about five minutes until reduced by half.
- Taste, add more lemon juice or salt, or both, then set aside to cool.
Fry the fish
- In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Pour the egg white over the seasoned fish, add the cornstarch, toss until a light batter forms and coats each slice of fish.
- Drop the battered fish fillets one by one into the hot oil.
- Cook until a crisp crust forms on the surface of the fish slices (see notes).
- Scoop out with a kitchen spider, tap gently over the pan to allow excess oil to drip off and transfer the fish to a shallow bowl or deep plate.
Assemble the dish
- Drizzle the lemon sauce over the dish.
- Sprinkle in the scallions and mint leaves.
- Arrange lemon slices on the side.
- Serve with rice.