As simple as this recipe sounds, I’m surprised others find it intimidating. You might say, “How difficult it is to fry fish? Just heat oil in the pan and throw the fish in and voila, you have fried fish!” But truth is, it takes some skill to fry fish with skin on– in this case tilapia. Unlike filleted ones, it requires more cooking time and it tends to stick to the pan if the oil is not hot enough.
In Philippines where I came from, we eat a lot of fish. Everyday actually. It’s something that most people can afford to buy and geographically (7,100 islands surrounded by bodies of water), it’s possible for us to have access to fish products all year round. Because I eat fish regularly, I learned how to cook fish in a variety of ways including frying.
So how exactly do you fry tilapia slices and get that crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside, golden brown perfection? Read on.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Yields: 4 slices
1 whole tilapia fish (2 pounder)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
Tools You’ll Need:
Deep skillet/ frying pan
1. Wash tilapia and cut across into serving pieces. I usually get 4 pieces out of 1 large fish. If you don’t want to do this, ask the butcher from the market where you bought the fish to do this for you. Much easier and less messy.
2. Pat dry fish slices with paper towel to remove most of the water. This lessens splattering once you start frying them. Set aside.
3. Heat oil until you see it starts to smoke a little bit. If you have an oil safe thermometer, the reading should not be less than 350ºF. If you don’t have it, try dipping your fingers in water and dropping some into the pan. When it sizzles, that means the oil is ready.
4. Quickly salt fish slices on both sides and drop onto skillet using a kitchen tong. Space them apart about ¼ inch. The skins will stick to each other if you fry them without giving ample space. This is quite a pain when you separate them and will ruin the appearance of the fried pieces.
5. Fry about 5 minutes on each side. You can check if it’s ready to flip by using a turner and gently lifting the fish from the side. If the skin still sticks a little bit, it means it’s not yet ready, or when the color isn’t browned yet. If it’s ready, you should be able to lift the fish easily. Fry the other side for another 5 minutes until golden brown. Another indication the fish is ready when you don’t hear the oil sizzling anymore.
6. Turn off stove and drain fish slices on paper towel to remove excess oil.
7. Serve with ketchup, soy sauce, or sinamak ( a concoction of vinegar, garlic, onions, ginger, hot chilis, and other spices).