Pan Fried Whole Fish with Herb Sauce

This recipe is a quick and easy way to get a Caribbean inspired whole fried fish on the table without having to use a deep fryer. The herb sauce is basically a pesto using fish sauce as the salty umami flavor instead of parmesan.   A perfect herby accompaniment to the crispy skin and juicy flesh.

I love creamy white beans with just about anything. Here I used Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans that I already had in the fridge. I reheated them and mashed them up to give them new life.  When the beans are good quality, I don’t soak them.  Simply rinse the beans in a colander, put into a pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Throw in a handful of garlic cloves,  a couple of whole chiles and herbs if you like,  and simmer until tender, about an hour or two. After the beans are cooked I heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil and fry up 1 tsp of Spice Tribe Wild Cumin Seeds until sizzling and fragrant.  I then pour the spiced oil right into the beans and season to taste with salt.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 whole white fish about 1.5 lb (porgy, branzino, snapper etc)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp Mama Manje
  • 1 - 2 Tbsp Peruvian Pink Salt
  • 1 -2 cups ghee or high smoke point oil for frying
  • Herb Sauce:
  • 2 cups rough chopped herbs of your choice (I used basil and cilantro)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice or more if needed
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes
  • Sides:
  • Creamy mashed white beans
  • Sautéed or grilled broccolini
  • Garnish with pine nuts and more herbs (cilantro)

Steps

  1. Fried whole fish:
  1. Score the fish on the bias about 1/8 in deep
  2. Season with finely ground salt in the slits you made and in the cavity
  3. Leave the fish to rest for about 10 minutes - the salt will help to pull out some of the moisture.
  4. While the fish is resting, heat the ghee to about 360-370F. Make certain you choose a frying pan that will fit the whole fish, mouth to tail. You will want the oil to come about 1/3 up the side of the fish.
  5. Mix cornstarch, flour and Mama Manje and dredge the fish inside and out, rubbing it into the slits.
  6. Shake off any excess flour before gently lowering the fish into the oil.
  7. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side depending on the thickness of the fish. It is done when the flesh begins to flake.
  8. When the fish is cooked through and crisp transfer it to a rack to cool before cooking the next fish.
  9. Herb Sauce:
  1. Place all the ingredients except the oil into the food process and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  2. Add the oil and pulse a few times to combine (don't overpulse as you want to retain the chunkiness of the herbs. Season with more salt and lime to taste..
  3. Serve with white beans, broccolini and garnish with pine nuts and more herbs sprinkled over top.

Things to remember

  • Cornstarch helps the skin get extra crispy. If you do not have cornstarch, you can substitute using flour only.
  • Make sure to use a pan big enough to fit the whole fish inside.
  • The smaller the pan the the more the temperature will drop when you add the fish. You may need to crank the temp to get it back up to 365F and then lower it again.