Whole deep-fried sea bass

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Nanban roughly translates as ‘Southern Barbarians’, referring to Portuguese merchants and missionaries, among the first Westerners to enter Japan via the island of Kyushu. With them, they brought South American chillies, their love for deep-frying foods, and their habit of marinating them in vinegar and chillies. It was not long before the Japanese took a fancy to these new flavours, creating Nanban Sauce, a zingy, sweet, sour and lightly spicy accompaniment to fried and steamed fish and chicken, or simply as a dressing over salad. I use Nanban Sauce here with a whole deep-fried sea bass in a dish that will impress your guests.

  • Yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients

  • ½ quantity of Nanban Sauce
  • 2¾ oz (75 g) carrot
  • 2¾ oz (75 g) celery stick
  • 2¾ oz (75 g) red onion
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 whole large seabass (about 600 g/1lb 5oz), gutted and scaled but head, fins and tail left on
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • sunflower oil, for deepfrying
  • 1¾ oz/½ cup (50 g) plain (all-purpose) flour, for dredging
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
To Garnish
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
  • handful of micro coriander (micro cilantro) leaves and edible flowers
  • 1 tbsp Coriander (Cilantro) Oil or toasted sesame oil
How to Make It
  1. Make the Nanban Sauce (see page 248. If using the Coriander (Cilantro) Oil, you can also prepare this ahead of time. Peel and cut the carrot and celery into fine julienne sticks about 4 cm (1½ inches) long and 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. Peel the onion, cut into quarters, then slice very thinly lengthways.
  2. Gently reheat the Nanban Sauce but do not boil it. Remove from the heat and add the sliced vegetables and ginger so the vegetables lightly cure and soften.
  3. Score the sea bass with 3 angled cuts on each side.Place on a baking tray (sheet) and roll it in the soy sauce, leaving it to marinate for 15 minutes. Fill a deep-fat fryer, stable wok or large pan (large enough to accommodate the whole fish) with sunflower oil and preheat it to 180°C (350°F).
  4. On a separate baking tray (sheet), season the flour with a little salt and pepper. Remove the fish from the soy sauce marinade, pat it dry with kitchen paper (paper towel) and lightly coat it in the seasoned flour. Carefully shake off any excess flour.
  5. Either fry the fish in the deep-fat fryer basket so it curls slightly or place straight into the fryer, wok or pan, for a flatter appearance. Deep-fry the sea bass for about 8 minutes, until the skin is crispy and the flesh has a golden brown colour. Meanwhile, drain the julienned vegetables (reserving the Nanban Sauce). Use the vegetables to make a flattish bed (roughly the same size and length as the fish) on an oval platter or serving dish.
  6. Place the deep-fried fish over the julienned vegetables, pour the reserved Nanban Sauce over and garnish with a scattering of diced red chillies, toasted white sesame seeds, micro coriander (micro cilantro) leaves and edible flowers. Drizzle the Coriander (Cilantro) Oil or toasted sesame oil over the dish and serve.
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