Dragon Fish with Sweet and Sour Sauce ►
This is a spectacular dish, arriving at the table looking ready to swim again. Chef Chu disassembles the fish, leaving the fillets attached to the tail but removing the entire bony skeleton. The sides are deeply scored, so that when the fish is battered and deep-fried the patterns still show. It is served on a platter “scaled” with overlapping thin cucumber slices.
- Red Snapper or Rock Cod - 1 whole, 4 to 5 pounds,cleaned and scaled
- Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- White Pepper - dash of freshly ground
- Rice Wine - 1/4 cup (alt. dry sherry)
- Cornstarch - for dusting
- Four - 1 cup
- Cornstarch - 1 cup
- Water - 1-1/2 cups
- Vegetable Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Vegetable Oil - 2 quarts, for deep frying
- Sweet and Sour Sauce - 2 cups (recipe follows)
- For Presentation
- Sesame Seeds - 2 tablespoons, toasted (alt. pine nuts)
- Bell Pepper - 1/4 cup diced
- Onions - 1/4 cup, cut in 1/4-inch dice
- Pineapple Pieces - 1/4 cup
- Maraschino Cherries - 2 diced
- Green Olives - 1 stuffed, cut in half crosswise
To fillet the fish, remove the fish head and reserve. Fillet on both sides of the fish by cutting along the backbone. Cut down the spine, sliding the knife along the ribs, stopping about 1-1/2 inches before reaching the tail and leaving the fillets attached at the tail section. Remove the entire bony skeleton using shears or a heavy knife. Score the side of the fish with parallel diagonal cuts to make a crisscross pattern. Repeat scoring technique on the other side. After scoring the fish, pat dry. Combine the salt, white pepper, and wine. Brush all sides of the fish with the wine mixture. Hold the fish up by the tail and shake it gently to separate the scored pieces of meat along the fillets. Coat the body and head, inside and out, with the cornstarch; set aside.
To make the batter: Mix the batter ingredients together in a medium bowl until it reaches the consistency of smooth heavy cream.
Heat 1 quart of the oil to 365 F in a wok. Coat the fish head in batter and deep-fry until golden brown. Remove, drain, and place on an oval serving platter. Return the oil temperature to 365 F. Holding the fish by its tail, dip the fish into the batter, making sure all scored sections and crevices are covered with the batter. Let excess batter drip off. Still holding the fish by its tail, slowly immerse the fish into the oil, skin side down, letting the fish curve slightly as it slides into the oil and begins to cook so that it forms a slight arch. Do not disturb the fish while it deep-fries. This will allow the patterns to set on the upper side. Baste the fish occasionally with hot oil, so that the oil reaches all surfaced. Fry the fish 8 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown. With a spatula or strainer, carefully remove the fish, drain, and set aside. The fish may be cooked to this point up to 3 to 4 hours before serving; cool the fish, cover, and refrigerate.
Heat the remaining oil to 365 F in the wok. Add the fish body for about 3 minutes, basting occasionally to reheat. Carefully remove with a spatula or strainer and drain.
To serve: Slice the cucumbers, skin on, into very thin circles; cut these in half. Arrange in an overlapping pattern on each side of the serving platter. Place the fish on the serving platter with the scored side showing. Arrange the fish head, angled upward, to recreate the original shape of the fish.
Heat the Sweet and Sour Sauce to a simmer in a saucepan to make a lightly thickened sauce. Ladle the sauce over the fish, coating all surfaces except the head and tail. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or pine nuts. Garnish with peppers, onions, pineapple, and cherries. Press one half of the stuffed olive into each eye socket, cut-side outwards, to complete presentation.