CRISPY WHOLE FISH WITH SWEET SPICY BLACK BEAN SAUCE
4 whole snappers (or bass-1.25-1.5 pounds each), scaled and gutted
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon olive oil
Oil for deep frying
3 cups cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Sweet and Spicy Black Bean Sauce (see recipe)
Place each fish on a cutting board and score it. Starting from the tail end, make 3-4 long slices to the bone at a 45-degree angle about every half inch. Starting at the head, make opposing slices to form a diamond pattern. Repeat on the other side of each fish. Rub the garlic and ginger into the fish, then coat with olive oil.
Choose a large pot so the fish will be completely submerged in oil. Pour in enough cooking oil to cover the fish when it is added. Heat the oil to 375-400.
Put the cornstarch on a plate. Working with one at a time, season the fish with a liberal amount of salt and pepper, then place it in the cornstarch, getting it into the slashes (fold the fish a bit to open). Turn the fish over, repeat and shake off excess cornstarch. Fold the head onto the tail and skewer through the head and in the meat of the tail.
Carefully put the fish into the hot oil and fry for 6 to 9 minutes, depending on the size (done when oil bubbles slow). Drain the fish on paper towels. Serve over a bed of rice or noodles and accompany with warm Bean Sauce (premade or recipe below). Serves 4
1 tablespoon fermented black beans
1 cup sugar
6 cups rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
1 cup Asian fish sauce
Put the 1 tbsp fermented black beans in a small bowl and add water to cover, stir, set aside to soak for 5 minutes, drain, then repeat same process twice more. Combine the sugar, vinegar, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and cook until reduced to 1 cup. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, add the black beans, pepper flakes and fish sauce. Taste and adjust.