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Question, when was the last time you cook a whole fish?

I seriously can’t remember when was the last time I cook a whole fish, let alone scale, gut the fillet the fish myself. Things might have changed a little these days in Malaysia, but I still remember the fish that mum bought at the local pasar (market) are usually come in whole and best the fishmonger could do for you is just scale it. But we preferred that way anyway so that we knew what we bought from the market is fresh and sometimes still kicking.

Funny how I used to hate the smelly, stinky pasar and much preferred to hang out at the air-conditioned supermarket. When I arrived in Australia 14 years ago, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the convenience of pre-prepared food that I can get at all the giant supermarket chains. Everything is cleaned, pre-washed, prepacked meat with no bones, fish with no body, I was in heaven! Things definitely have changed, not for the good.

A seafood theme dinner last week had got me back to basic, I bought all seafood fresh from the local fish shop including a whole snapper. I scaled, gutted and filleted the fish just like mum used to do, it was a proud moment to see a whole fish slowly turning into two perfect fillets ready to be cooked.

Since I have two fillets to share among three people, I decided to cut them into smaller slices, coated with panko crumbs then deep fried into fish fingers. The white parsley sauce was a suggestion from The Pom and it paired exceptionally well with the fish.

If you can’t remember when was the last time you fillet a whole fish, or NEVER fillet a fish before, then I urge you to give a go this weekend.

Original recipe by A Table For Two

Panko-crumbed snapper fingers and seasonal vegetables
1 whole snapper (scaled, gutted and filleted) -
1 bunch asparagus
1 bunch fresh broadbeans
1 bunch inoki mushrooms
1 carrot
1 floret cauliflower (green verdant or romanesco)
3 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp white flour
1 cup panko crumbs
1 egg beaten
Salt and Pepper
Canola oil for frying

1. Slice the two fish fillets into 9 equal size fingers.
2. Prepare all vegetables - For asparagus, cut around 4 to 5 cm length from the tips. For cauliflower, carefully split it into bitesize florets by using a knife. For inoki, cut off the end bits, about 5 - 6 cm in length. For carrot, portion it into 3 parts then cut into Tournes. For broadbeans, peel the skins off and split in half.
3. Bring a pot of salt water to boil, the blanch the vegetables in the order of carrot (no more than 5 mins), cauliflower (no more than 3 minutes), asparagus and broadbeans (no more than 1 minute), then inoki mushrooms (no more than 10 seconds). Then immediately transfer to a cold bath to stop cooking process.
4. Heat up the canola oil in a saucepan in medium heat ready for deep frying. In the mean time, prepare three bowls - 1. mix of cornflour, white flour, salt and pepper, 2. beaten egg, 3. panko crumbs respectively.
5. Lightly dust the fish finger in flour then shake off the excess flour, dip in egg mix, then finally coat it with panko crumbs. Set it on a plate and repeat with the rest of the fingers.
6. Once the oil is hot enough, slowly lower the fingers into oil and deep fried for 2 minutes on each side. DO NOT overcrowd while deep frying and the temperature will drop and resulting greasy fish fingers. Once the fingers are golden brown, remove from the oil and drain well on paper towels.

Basil Oil
Please refer to this recipe.

White Parsley Sauce
30g butter
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml skim milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tbsp chopped parsley

1. Melt butter in pan over low heat, then gradually add flour and stir to mix well together.
2. Remove from the pan, then slowly stir in skim milk until smooth. Use a whisk if you must.
3. Return the mixture back to stove on low heat and keep stirring until thicken.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add chopped parsley just before serve.

1. Warm up the plates in the oven and reheat the vegetable slightly in oven or under grill.

2. Add 3 tablespoons of the white sauce on the plate and spread across the plate using the back of the spoon.

3. Place broadbeans and inoki mushrooms sparsely on the sauce. Place 3 fish fingers on top of sauce, then add asparagus, carrot and cauliflower to the place leaning against the fish.

4. Drizzle with basil oil and serve immediately.