What’s the secret for making a sticky lemon sauce? Cook it like a syrup. Sugar, lemon juice and water. No starch. But do add lemon zest for better aroma and a little salt for balance. Just boil gently until syrupy. And the bright yellow color? A pinch of turmeric.
Ideally, to keep the cooking time short, the fish is fried while the sauce is bubbling away in another pot. Fish and sauce cook at the same time, keeping the cooking time at around 10 minutes.
However, it might be a confusing procedure for some. The recipe below doubles the cooking time but is, overall, less frenzied.
Fried whole fish with lemon sauce
- 1 kilogram whole firm fleshy fish gutted and scaled
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
For the sticky sweet sour lemon sauce
- ¼ cup corn starch
- cooking oil for deep frying
- torn mint to garnish
Prep the fish
- Pat the fish dry with a kitchen towel. Score both sides (see how and why you should).
- Rub the herb salt all over the fish including the slits and cavity.
- Place the fish in a covered container and keep in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Make the sauce
- In a small sauce pan, stir all the ingredients for the sauce with a quarter cup of water.
- Set the pan over high heat and allow the mixture to boil.
- Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook the sauce, uncovered, until reduced by half. Set aside. The sauce thickens some more as it cools.
Fry the fish
- Sprinkle the starch on both sides of the fish.
- Set a frying pan large enough to hold the fish on the stove and set the heat to high. Pour in enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- When you see fine wisps of smoke floating on the surface of the oil, slide in the starched fish. Keeping the heat on high, cook the fish for six minutes. Flip to cook the opposite side for another four minutes.
Assemble the dish
- Scoop out the fish (a kitchen spider is useful) and lay on a serving plate.
- Pour enough of the sticky sweet sour lemon sauce over the hot fish so that a little pool forms around it.
- Sprinkle the fish with torn mint before serving.