'Flying’ fried snapper

'Flying’ fried snapper

7000 Islands
Jana Liebenstein

At my favourite restaurant in Manila, Abe, I always order this impressive signature dish. Abe has kindly shared the recipe for their best seller. Here, Filipino tilapia has been swapped for local snapper. Check your wok before heading to the fishmonger and choose a fish that fits inside. Preserving its open structure as it fries takes practice, but boy it looks good once you’ve mastered it.


Quantity Ingredient
700g whole snapper or tilapia, cleaned and scaled
2 tablespoons kalamansi or lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
215g cornflour
1 1/2 tablespoons fine salt
3 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 bunch mustard leaves, picked and washed, to serve
Garlic and vinegar dipping sauce
or Soy sauce and kalamansi dipping sauce
steamed rice, to serve


  1. Place the fish on a work surface and use kitchen scissors to remove the dorsal and pectoral fins and discard. Using a sharp filleting knife, run the knife along the top of the fish so it cuts just deep enough to expose the backbone. Starting at the tail end, with the knife flat against the bones and using the spine as a guide, cut from the tail to the head, but not all the way through — you should have a fillet flap or ‘wing’. Turn the fish over and repeat. Using fish tweezers, remove any pin-bones from the fillets, if necessary.
  2. Combine the kalamansi juice and soy sauce in a large shallow dish. Add the fish and turn to coat, ensuring the flaps and cavity are covered in marinade. Set aside until needed.
  3. Combine the cornflour, salt and pepper in a separate large shallow dish.
  4. Fill a large wok half-full with vegetable oil and place over medium–high heat until the oil reaches 180ºC.
  5. Just before deep-frying the fish, drain it and turn to coat in the cornflour mixture (make sure the eyes, cavity, flaps and tail are all coated to ensure a crisp, fried fish). Shake off the excess. Using your hands, open the mouth, gills and fillet ‘wings’, then, using tongs, gently lower the fish, head first, into the oil (this preserves the ‘flying’ structure of the fish). Gradually continue lowering until the fish is in the oil (its spine will protrude). Once the fish is fried enough to ‘stand’ by itself, release the tongs. Cook for 4 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the whole fish is golden and crisp. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towel and rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a platter and position upright (flying!). Serve with mustard greens, dipping sauce and steamed rice.
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