Lahori Style Fried Fish
How I love thee (fish)? Let me count the ways.
I love how it grills, steams, barbeques and fries!
What is your favorite way of cooking fish? Generally I avoid deep frying food because it is simply unnecessary to add so many extra calories to a meal and if ever there is a calorie deficit ( highly unlikely though ), I would definitely be filling it with some sweetness rather than fats. But fish is exempted from this kitchen law of mine. Batter coated fried fish is my absolute favorite way of cooking fish… Crisp, flavorful golden layer of coating enveloping soft, tender, flaky fish.. Yum! How can you go wrong with such contrasting textures!
Lahore city is the central food hub in the province of Punjab, famous worldwide for many reasons and this style of fried fish is associated with the walled city of Lahore with most eateries in the city serving it along with the other varieties like fish tikka, tandori fish, barbeque fish, grilled fish. Usually fish with bones is used but since my kids prefer boneless, I mostly buy and cook boneless fish. I have shared tips for buying fish in a previous post. For batter, gram flour/baisin is used which is a huge plus point for a gluten free household. Soaked tamarind liquid is mixed with gram flour to form the batter. It is seasoned with all desi spices, ginger and garlic which makes it distinctive in its own way.
Here are a few tips and tricks for this signature dish.
- Fish should be cleaned and washed. Pat dry with kitchen towel to absorb moisture.
- Lightly dust fish with all purpose flour/maida or with corn flour for gluten free option. Both flours work perfectly fine individually. This light layer of dry flour keeps fish pieces dry and helps batter to coat fish well.
- Dry roast gram flour/baisin for a couple of minutes over medium flame in a clean, oil free tawa/frying pan. This dry roasting will add pleasant aroma to gram flour.
- Soak tamarind in water for about an hour or so. Then press tamarind well with you hand to squeeze out maximum pulp. Discard seeds and pits. Strain and mix this pulpy tamarind water with roasted gram flour to form batter.
- After coating fish with seasoned batter, refrigerate for at least an hour. This will help the flavors to penetrate well and batter will get rested.
- Use neutral and flavorless oil for frying. Like corn oil, canola oil. Do not fry in ghee and do not use olive oil for frying either.
- Heavy bottom wok works best for deep frying.
- Make sure there is ample amount of oil in the wok throughout frying to keep fish pieces completely immersed. It is deep frying after all.
- Bring the oil to the right temperature before adding fish and maintain the temperature throughout frying.
- Place each piece of fish carefully in hot oil to make sure the batter isn’t slipping off the fish.
- Let one side get perfectly golden brown before flipping otherwise the batter will come off.
- Do not crowd the wok. Fry 3-4 pieces at a time, depending on the size of fish pieces and size of the wok.
- To keep the coating crisp, put in a wire basket once fried. Kitchen towel or tissue will make the coating soggy.
Lahori Style Fried Fish
Crispy batter coated fried fish with all desi elements. Why eat out when you can create magic at home!
- ¼ cup tamarind
- 1⅛ cup water
- 1 kg fish, washed and pat dry ( I used boneless)
- ¼ cup corn flour
- 1 cup gram flour/baisin
- 1¼ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp red chilli powder (adjust as per liking)
- ½ tsp red chilli flakes (adjust as per liking)
- 1 tsp garam masala powder
- 1½ tsp white cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ½ cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- oil for deep frying
In a small bowl, soak tamarind with water for about an hour. Then squeeze out pulp. Discard seeds, strain the pulpy water.
Lay fish pieces on a tray, in single layer. Lightly dust both sides of fish pieces.
In a clean, oil free pan, dry roast gram flour/baisin for about 40-50 seconds or till slightly aromatic, over medium flame, stirring continuously. Don't let the color change.
Remove from stove top and cool slightly.
Put roasted gram flour/baisin in a blender with tamarind water, salt, red chilli powder, red chilli flakes, garam masala powder, white cumin seds, coriander seeds, ginger paste and garlic paste.
Blend for 20-30 second or till well combined.
Add in dried thyme and fresh coriander. Pulse 3-4 times.
Transfer batter into a bowl.
Pick a piece of fish and coat both sides. Let excess batter drip.
Place coated fish on a tray and coat all the pieces one by one. Don't stack fish, place in single layer.
Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
Heat oil in a wok over medium flame.
Put a drop of batter in to the hot oil. If it rises quickly and floats on the surface it means oil is at proper temperature. If it sinks to the bottom of the wok, oil isn't hot enough.
Pick a piece of battered fish and gently lower in to the wok.
Fry 3-4 pieces at a time, depending on the size of fish pieces and wok size.
Let it fry for about 3-4 minutes and them flip to cook the other side.
Once fried well to reach deep golden brown color, remove from oil, using a slotted frying spoon and place on a wire rack.
Repeat till all pieces are fried.
Serve hot with lemon slices, chutney of choice.