Monday, May 6, 2013

Just Talkin' Bout Tilapia


As I write this, surely someone is thinking to themselves: "we should hike the price of tilapia."

Tilapia is a name that can apply to dozens and dozens of similar species that are laterally compressed fresh-water (mostly) vegetarians that grow quickly and have a good yield when prepared for sale in the fish market.

The group of fish labeled tilapia originates in Africa but has been successfully farmed elsewhere.

The meat is extremely lean and had been considered an undesirable fish until recently when improved farming techniques coupled with increased consumer concerns about fish sourcing lead to an uptick in the fish's popularity.

Some folks take umbrage at what they consider the blandness of the fish. In my mind this reminds me of the marketing slogan "the chicken of the sea." It occurs to me that anyone swayed by that likes neither chicken nor seafood.

I like tilapia, and I think it has a lot of character. Moreover, I think there are endless applications that can be applied to the fish.

I set about to make fish tacos for dinner. I spotted a bag of raw almonds some shopper had abandoned on top the glass deli case at Duc Loi. I knew what I had to do: dust chunks of tilapia with ground almonds and flour.

One filet of tilapia could easily make dinner for four people, but me and my friend made quick work of that filet before I could think to photograph them. (For the record, about 50/50 finely ground almonds to all-purpose flour, and a dash of kosher salt).

The second filet (by the way - total cost for two filets, about 2.3 lbs of fish, $5.40-something) was dusted with flour and the left over dry-rub from Porkpocalypse II.


Fried Tilapia Fillet:
  • 1 tilapia filet, cut into roughly 1" pieces (or longer strips for the thin dorsal segment).
  • 1/3 cups of a fry-mix: almond flour, flour and salt, flour and BBQ dry rub, rice flour, chickpea flour, etcetera...
Dump raw fish pieces in a stainless steel bowl with the fry rub and toss to coat evenly.

I'm frying my fish today in a 2 quart saucier with about 3/4 of a cup of "mystery meat fat": the saved fat from chickens, beef, pork or duck that has been rendered out, strained and reserved in a lidded glass jar.

Heat oil until it just begins to smoke very slightly then reduce heat to low. Add 3-4 pieces of fish at a time and adjust the heat back to medium-low. Cook pieces for about 3-4 minutes at a time, turning once or twice to brown evenly.

The fat will be very foamy so be careful to keep an eye on it.

Remove pieces to a wire rack and salt lightly.

I like to dust zucchini squash with any left-over fry rub and fry those up too.

This is great on brown rice, or on top of a brothy bowl of noodles (Asian preparation) or with corn tortillas for fish tacos (Cinco de Mayo edition). Serve on a buttered, grilled hot dog bun with cole-slaw and hot sauce and you got yourself a stateless tilapia po' boy.

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Duc Loi Supermarket
2200 Market Street
San Francisco, CA