Crispy Thai style garlic fried fish
In Thailand, when you order fish…you’re probably getting the WHOLE fish on a plate, and while it's not what we are as used to, fish cooked whole always tastes better, and it's a relatively easy process to separate the meat from the bones tableside.
As a general rule, everything tastes better when cooked on the bone, and fish is no exception, it also makes preparation a breeze, and guarantees and impressive presentation!
The other somewhat different thing about Thai style fried fish is that they simply plop the fish into hot oil, without first covering it in any form of protective batter, and let the oil crisp up the naturally fatty fish skin into something delightfully crispy and flavorful. Not really so different from simply fried chicken, but something that I had never seen before.
The best fish to use for this is a sweet and mild freshwater fish, but sea fish such as sea bass or tilapia will also work. Try pickerel, small or large mouth bass or pretty much anything else you bring home from a successful fishing expedition!
Crispy garlic fried fish (about 2 lbs)
2 lb whole fish
50 cloves of smashed but not cut garlic, still in the skin
Salt and pepper
If the fish is not yet prepared, clean and scale the fish. Rub salt all over the fish and leave for about five minutes before rinsing off. The salt removes any "fishiness", make sure to dry the fish very well, both to ensure crispy skin, and also to avoid dangerous oil splatter as you place the fish in the hot oil.
Sprinkle the fish again with salt and black pepper and rub with loads of smashed garlic, still in the skin (40-50 cloves is about right!), and make three deep slashes perpendicular to the spine on each side of the fish (makes for extra crispy bits!)
Heat oil for deep frying until 350 degrees, and add the fish and garlic; after about a minute, the garlic will brown and crisp and float to the surface. At this point skim out all of the garlic and reserve. Continue frying the fish until browned and very crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
Plate and top with all the reserved and crispy garlic, and fresh cilantro as a garnish, and serve as a part of larger Thai meal with jasmine rice.
The fish is best eaten by hand, grabbing crunchy bits directly off of the fish a la fried chicken.