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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beer Battered Perch

Growing up as a kid in Malaysia, an occasional dining experience in restaurants specializing in serving Western cuisine would be what we kids called a treat. And kids being kids, we simply love the out of the norm food that we would usually get in those restaurants. One of the classic favorites would be the chicken chop, which I learned only years later that it is by no means a Western specialty surprisingly.

Unique to Malaysian mostly, this is more of a local creation that almost everyone from all ages has come to love and adore, but has somehow mistakenly linked it to the Western cuisine for a reason obviously unknown to me and stayed the way it is since. So much so that picturing and describing it here with words seem a little difficult. Here is a photo of it.

black pepper (gravy on the side) served with fried, coleslaw and mashed potatoes
That aside, I had always have a special liking for fish and chips in those restaurants all the same. And the preferences stay through all the years growing up. Leaving Malaysia to study abroad, while chicken chop was nowhere to be found, I was in a city with fish and chips aplenty. In Glasgow, Scotland, it is so popular you see them everywhere, pretty much like a Glasgow version of fast food. The Counting House right in the city center was where I had my first fish and chips away from my homeland, and somewhere in the same city was where I had my very first taste of beer battered fish and chips.

Re-creating the beer battered fish at home using perch fillets, it was a pleasant surprise to see how well they turned out to be. Perfectly browned with a light and crispy texture, they were nicely infused with beer flavor on the outside, yet nicely retaining both tender and flaky qualities on the inside.

ocean perch (on top) and yellow lake perch (bottom)

Beer Battered Perch  
Adapted from French Tart
Serves 2-3 
1lb perch fillets, cleaned and pin bones removed, patted dry
2 heaped tbsps all-purpose flour for dusting
cooking oil for deep frying

Beer batter
6oz (~170g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
8fl oz beer (original recipe asked for British beer, I used what I had in the fridge - Heineken instead)
lemon juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper

1. Prepare the batter by mixing in the all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt and pepper in a deep bowl. Add in the beer gradually while stirring continuously until the batter reached the right consistency for coating. Continue mixing and breaking down the lumps until it gets smooth. Set this aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat up the cooking oil. In a large, deep plate, spoon in the all-purpose flour for dusting. 

3. Make sure the oil is well heated before the frying begins. I tested it with by dipping one end of a wooden chopstick into the oil. If a stream of tiny bubbles forms around the chopstick, the oil is ready. Turn it down to medium-high.
4. Working one at a time, dredge the fillets in the all-purpose flour thoroughly. This ensures that the fillets get well coated with the batter later.
5. Holding it on one end, dip the dredged fillet into the bowl of batter and swirl around to coat evenly.
6. Let the excess batter drip off the end momentarily before putting it into the hot oil. Repeat with the rest of the fillets.
7. It takes about a minute or two before the perch fillets start browning on the bottom. Flip them over carefully and let it fry on the other side for another minute or two. 
8. Once nicely crisped up, remove from oil and drain well on a paper towel.

9. Serve hot on a bed of fries and coleslaw on the side. Tartare sauce, ketchup and a slice of lemon all make great condiments to complement this.

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