Fish Fry (cá chiên)

Tonight’s meal is a throw-back to the family culture brought over from the old country where fish is plentiful and rice abounds.  With the hot/humid culture, a fry means less time with yet another heat source.

Pan fried whole fish.  Use discretion, proper ventilation and expect cleanup  when frying indoors

Pan fried whole fish. Use discretion, proper ventilation and expect surface area cleanup when frying indoors

The aroma of fish frying takes me back to home, with dad frying up fish on the backyard burner, since the kitchen in our home growing up was equipped with only a recirculating vent.

Prep 1 Whole Fish, descaled, and salt & pepper inside and out.  Heat a stainless steel (featured above), carbon steel, or cast iron pan at medium heat, then put on some oil to get to temperature.  Carefully load fish in pan to fry one side.  Flip over when first cooking side is cooked and skin lifts off the pan with little resistance.  If resistant, wait a little longer and/or lift the pan up/down to move oil around the bottom surface.  Repeat with other side once flipped.

Next time I may forgo slicing into the fish, or go with fewer, shallower cuts.

Today’s fry used olive oil.  Its our kitchen’s primary oil.  I can hear lots of folks protesting about high heat and olive oil.  But I invite the gentle reader to these points:

  1. Turn down your burner away from MAX.  With good quality cookware, mid-range power is about the most you need.  I know.. I used to click the burners to full HI before I knew better.
  2. SeriousEats has a good review on hi-temperature cooking with olive oil that concludes that its really a taste/flavor decision and no significant credible evidence supporting commonly purported health hazards.

Plate and serve.  Traditionally with rice and Nước chấm.  Vegetable is nice too.


For any pixel-peepers reading here, the battery in our primary shooter apparently decided to self-discharge overnight and I only realized it when we needed it today.  So today’s photos courtesy our son’s point-and-shoot and gentle touch-up with The GIMP.


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