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Perhaps we’re a little afraid of all those scales, fins, eyes and bones and worry about the best way to cook a fish. The other difficulty relates to buying good, fresh fish. Unlike meat or chicken, we know that fish doesn’t tolerate being packaged up and left in the supermarket cold chill cabinet, so have to search out the specialty fish supply shops. Even then the choice can sometimes be a bit limited and distressingly, often filleted beyond recognition, bereft of skin and other interesting bits.
Restaurants have at their disposal a larger fish market, delivered fresh every day or two and to their requirements – whole, skin on or filleted as they prefer.
I always love the seafood and fish dishes at a favourite restaurant – Strathlynn in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley – because the produce they source is so sparklingly fresh. The fish tastes just like the catch that as a family we used to haul out of the seas on a line with a sinker and cook up in the shack kitchen for lunch.
Strathlynn’s crispy skin ocean perch is a great dish and is simple in preparation. The ingredient list is few – the fish, some basic Asian flavourings, a tasty sausage and cabbage. That’s it. Cooking time is minimal – as long as the cabbage takes to sweat down. The most time-consuming but important part is in slicing the cabbage and flavourings as finely as possible. Just get a very sharp knife and go for it.
Serve with a crisp, fruity Tasmanian riesling like 2005 Josef Chromy Riesling.
Crispy skin fish with warm cabbage salad
fillets of ocean perch, skin on
salt and pepper
rice flour for coating
Flathead, trevalla or trevally will all work well. Cut some 5mm deep slashes in the skin of each fillet. Season well with salt and pepper. Coat in rice flour.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a hot pan. Sear the fish, skin side down, for about 2 minutes until golden brown and crispy. Turn over; turn off the pan and leave to cook/rest for about 2-3 minutes.
For the cabbage salad:
knob fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced very finely
1 large clove garlic, peeled and sliced very finely
1 chorizo sausage cut into thin slices
5 whole star anise
1 large red chilli, seeded and cut into fine strips
½ large white cabbage, shredded very finely
light soy sauce
baby salad greens, watercress for preference
Heat a large pan with some vegetable oil. Stir fry the ginger, garlic, sausage, star anise and chilli for about a minute. Add the cabbage and continue to stir fry for a minute. Pop on a lid, lower the heat slightly and let the cabbage sweat until it has collapsed and softened.
Remove the lid, add about a tablespoon of soy sauce and a splash of fish sauce to taste.
Pile the cabbage salad on a plate, scatter over baby salad leaves and top with the crispy fish.