Turmeric? Well, without it, the sauce would be too pale to make it visually attractive. But aside from giving the sauce a lovely golden hue, turmeric is packed with flavor too.
The chili slices are added after cooking, allowing just a bit of heat to permeate the flesh of the fish when hot sauce is poured over it.
Why tilapia? It’s inexpensive and always available, it’s tasty and it’s one of my family’s favorite fish. Fry it, steam it, grill it — tilapia is simply delicious.
Full recipe below
Fried whole tilapia with sweetened calamansi sauce
- 1 large tilapia - 600 to 700 grams
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch - or corn starch
- 2 to 3 cups cooking oil - for deep frying
For the garnish
- 1 red finger chili - finely sliced
- 3 stalks scallions - cut into 2-inch lengths and finely sliced vertically
- Score the tilapia diagonally across the back, on both sides, then rub all over with salt, including inside the cuts where the fish has been scored.
- Pour the calamansi juice into a pan. Add the sugar. Set over high heat and wait for the sugar to start caramelizing. DO NOT stir to avoid the formation of crystals. You may, however, swirl the pan.
- When the sugar has melted, add the salt and turmeric powder, lower the heat to medium and continue boiling gently until thickened. Do not allow the sauce to thicken so much as it thickens some more as it cools.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least three inches.
- Sprinkle the tilapia with starch and slide into the hot oil. Flip halfway through for even cooking and browning.
- When the fish is done, transfer to a serving platter.
- Scatter the sliced chili and scallions on top.
- Pour the sauce directly over the chili slices and onion leaves.
- Serve the fried whole tilapia with sweetened calalamsi sauce and chili at once.