MANILA, MARCH 21, 2008
(STAR) EAT’S EASY By Ernest Reynoso Gala - Ruling a large kingdom is like cooking a small fish (Handle gently and never overdo it.) — Lao-tse, Chinese philosopher (6th century BC)

It’s the Lenten season and one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat is the delicious fish and chips. The recipe originated from England, and was immensely popular among the people because it was relatively inexpensive, the United Kingdom having vast fish resources. Another plus is it is quite easy to prepare. It is wrapped in newspaper or brown paper to absorb the excess oil from the fish, which is deep-fried in animal lard or vegetable oil. The term “chips” refers to potato wedges or french fries, accompanied with salt and vinegar sauce, though the more popular choices today are tartar sauce, which is mayo-based, and tomato ketchup. There are numerous choices of fish that can be used, ranging from sole fish to monk fish, cod, snapper, but any white meat fish will do. The batter may be thick or thin and adding breadcrumbs is an option.

In my version, I like to use what the Japanese call kisu, locally known as asohos because of its soft texture and great flavor. Baking powder is added to fluff the batter, giving more volume, while the baking soda gives a crispy exterior. When deep-frying, there should be enough oil to cover what you are cooking and it should be very hot. To check if it is at the right temperature, get a wooden chopstick and put it at the center of the pan — if there’s plenty of bubbles, then it’s perfect. Or use an oil thermometer and wait until it reaches 375 degrees. When frying, lower the fire and gently add fish to the pan. Raise the heat to high when enough fish is added. This helps lessen the spattering while cooking, giving you more confidence and less chances of oil hitting your hand. Wait until the fish floats up and the color is golden. Collect and place on paper towels to remove the excess oil and transfer to a basket or plate.

For the chips, instead of using the usual potato for french fries, I like to use sweet potato or yellow camote. After cutting into wedges, place in ice-cold water to prevent discoloration. Dredge in cornstarch and then dip in the same batter as fish. Deep-fry for two minutes, remove, transfer to napkin or newspaper-lined plate or basket.

For many, Holy Week is a time for reflection, sacrifice, and prayer for everything that has happened in our lives. We thank and continue to pray for the Lord’s blessing.

May peace be with you on your life’s journey and fish be with you at the dinner table.

Philippine-Style Fish and Chips

For the fish:

1/2 kilo asohos, cleaned and with spine removed. Season with 1 tsp. each of rock salt, liquid seasoning. Add in 1/2 tsp. pepper and 1 Tbsp. calamansi juice. Dredge in 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Dip in batter: Mix together in a bowl: 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 tsp. each of salt, baking powder, baking soda, 2 cups water, 2 whole eggs

Deep-fry in very hot oil until fish floats (a few seconds only so fish is crispy outside, moist inside). Drain in paper napkins.

For the chips:

1 kilo sweet potato (camote or yellow variety). Cut into wedges 1/2-inch thick, 2 inches long. Soak in cold water until ready to fry to prevent discoloration. Drain. Dredge in 1 cup cornstarch and the dip in batter. Deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on paper napkins.

For the dip:

Mix in a bowl: 1 Tbsp. crushed garlic, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsps. soy sauce, 2 cups vinegar, 1 tsp. coarsely ground peppercorns. Top with 1 small violet onion, peeled and sliced into rings.

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Ern’s top 4 fish and chips

• Fish & Co. Shangri-La Mall has really good fish and chips, cooked well, and with a nice batter.

• TGIF Friday’s: High school would not be complete without their fish and chips, also very delicious.

• Chilli’s: Thick batter, big servings can’t go wrong!

• Burgoo’s: Fish is moist inside and it’s got a nice color; consistently good.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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