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Here’s a quick, easy and tasty recipe for those of you out who like fried fish fillet. As a child, I remember feasting on crispy fish fillets during our summer outings to various tourist locations in the Philippines. My grandfather played host to these trips for the international students (mostly Koreans) in the school he used to head and I, of course, would not miss any of it. And some of these students have children my age. It was so funny in the beginning because us kids could not understand each other — they were still learning English and so we were all just nodding, smiling, laughing, playing and eating! The language barrier did not keep us from enjoying each others company.
So where was I.. yes the fish! One of my favorite packed lunch order at the Korean restaurant that catered for us was the spicy fish fillet with steamed rice. I have distinct memories of tastes of food from childhood and this is one of them. I have been so desperate for decades to find this taste or replicate it until I stumbled upon the basa fish and this simple concoction. It sounds ridiculous that I have been craving this for more than 10 years! I’m so relieved to “find” it once again and be able to satiate this craving. I cooked and ate this two days in a row! It was that bad.
I have to tell you something else: it tastes so close to McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets! I promise I was not hallucinating. So FYI, this could be a good alternative McNuggets fix.
Here’s another accidental discovery that accompanied this dish: I ran out of flour and resorted to using cornstarch for dredging. It gave a really nice, crackly-crispiness that I have been looking for a very long time. Perfect!
As for the fish, you might be wondering how in the world I decided to pick basa fish. I didn’t know this fish until it called out to me at the Chinese supermarket. This was sold frozen and although I don’t usually buy frozen fish, I was curious to try it. The meat is white (compared to the orange-coral-red-ish color of salmon) with thick flakes, compared to the finer tilapia meat. It keeps its shape during pan frying and is not as delicate as some fish fillets. I makes perfect sense for making fish sticks. It won’t fall off your fingers or fork as other fish varieties would.
You can also try the following recipe with the fish of your preference. Don’t forget to let me know if it worked out for you!
Crispy Basa Fish Fillet Sticks
- 10- to 12-ounces basa fillets, cut to your desired “stick” size
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
- olive oil, for frying
- For the dredge: 3/4 cup cornstarch, 1 tsp pepper
1. Marinate fish in lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper powder for 15 minutes.
2. One by one, take fish sticks from the marinade and dredge in cornstarch and pepper mixture. Tap the excess cornstarch off the fish.
3. Fry in medium to high heat with enough oil to cover the surface of the frying pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes each side depending on thickness, until golden brown. If the fish slice is thick, cook on all 4 sides.
4. Serve on its own or with ketchup and/or rice.