This is a recipe that was inspired by a video tutorial that I saw on YouTube; I’d say it’s also influenced by Thai and Hmong cuisine. The YouTube video that I saw was a guiding point for me. First, I don’t know much about tilapia, and anyone that knows me knows that I don’t like fresh water fish (especially catfish); it’s just that when I think of seafood and the better quality fishes I think of saltwater fishes; plus you can eat just about anything (including seaweed!) from the ocean, the same can’t be said about freshwater stuff though.
Anyway, I was at Walmart (buying frozen snow crabs), and to my surprise I found a section in the freezer with bags of frozen whole tilapia. Now, it would have been great if there was an actual fish market somewhere that was even relatively close so that I can get fresh fish, but alas no, so even frozen is better than nothing at all. I was surprise to find them whole too (I love whole fishes, as that is how it’s usually eaten in authentic Chinese cuisine, and steamed!).
If you want more detailed (and visionary) instructions, I recommend watching the YouTube video, Deep Fried Tilapia Recipe by Annie Vang. My tilapia was frozen, so I had to let it thaw overnight in the fridge, but it was still stiff the next day, so I ran it under cold water to soften it up. It was already slit opened (thank God I didn’t have to do that), but I did remove all the fins with scissors, as well as the tail. I also made vertical slits on its body on both sides. I didn’t use all of the ingredients that Annie Vang used in her recipe, and I also didn’t coat it with egg or flour.
I heated up a large skillet with oil and I fried the fish, while the fish was frying I started chopping up my herbs (there was a lot of chopping to be done!). After about 15 minutes I flipped the fish to the other side to fry it for another 10 minutes. I removed the fish and put it on a plate (I later plated it on top of two white cabbage leaves), and I squeezed a lime over the fish.
For the sauce (which I LOVE because it tasted just like the sauce from the Thai restaurants) I heated up a wok with oil, and the ingredients that I used were: onions, cilantro (it’s my favorite herb!), ginger, garlic, mint, basil, scallions, jalapeño, cherry tomatoes and chives.
I added the onions first, and then I just dump the rest into the wok (I don’t think it really matters what order you cook it), since I was using a wok for the sauce it cooked really fast. I added crushed red pepper, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Chinese chili garlic sauce. It took about 5 minutes to make the sauce, when the herbs have wilted, that’s when you know it’s been cooked — all of the ingredients listed were cooked in the wok together.
As far as how much to use or put, I believe that depends on your taste, what you like more or less of. I’m not good with measurements (which is why I can’t bake!), I eyeball everything. I poured the sauce all over the fish, and then I garnished it with LOTS of raw cilantro to finish it. I ate it for a late lunch with Jasmine rice. It was my first time cooking a whole fish, and I was worried I wouldn’t like it because I don’t usually like fried stuff, and I don’t usually like whole fish unless it’s steamed, but I really liked this dish a lot and the sauce was delicious!!!