Fried whole scad, eaten with rice and a chili-lime dip.
Whole small oily fishes such as sardines, scads and even anchovies are best eaten fried. We don't get herrings here but I think they are also good fried although right now I crave Dutch-style herrings, eaten raw, whole and coated with raw chopped onions. Oily forage fish or bait fish are very tasty but considered cheap fish compared to white fish. Oily bait fishes have a stronger flavor and sweeter taste than white fish and are a lot more safer to eat than large white fishes because 1) they eat plankton so they are vegetarians compared to bigger predator fish, which should make them more healthy to eat 2) they haven't lived long enough to accumulate massive amounts of heavy metals as big fishes have 3) they don't have a high commercial value so there's less chance of them being preserved with dubious chemicals.
Black pomfret are not bait fishes and hardly considered cheap now but they make the best fried fish in my opinion. Black pomfrets with a body (i.e. excluding the tail) the size of my hand are the perfect size for eating. Too small and I feel guilty eating fish that hasn't had a chance to breed. Too big and there's too much meat to skin. The flesh of the black pomfret is soft, fine-textured and sweet but it's the deep-fried toasted flavor of the crispy skin and bones (which are soft enough to eat, especially if the fish is small), and especially the crispy fins (and the head!), that make the black pomfret so delicious. The another reason I love the black pomfret is the bonus in the belly. Nine out of ten black pomfrets will have at least one to two lumps of precious plump roe--get the fish with a swollen belly.
You'd pooh-pooh me for this recipe but sometimes the simplest recipes make the best meals. Fried black pomfret in garlic oil, drizzled with black soy sauce and eaten with plain rice and a chili-calamansi lime dip may be simple but you'd be surprised how delicious it is, especially when washed down with a 'long-boiled' watercress or winter melon soup.
Crispy Pomfret In Garlic Oil
2 black pomfrets, each about the size of your hand or bigger
1 bulb garlic, smashed and chopped finely
coriander leaves (cilantro) to garnish
1/2 cup veg oil
1. Clean the pomfrets, removing scales and guts. Keep the roe. Score a couple of slits in the thickest part of the fish and dry the fish and roe with paper towel.
2. Put oil into a heated wok or frying pan. Add the chopped garlic and fry in low heat, stirring all the time until garlic is crisp and golden (not too brown or it'll be bitter). Remove garlic and set aside. Leave the oil in the wok/pan and reheat.
3. When oil is slightly smoking, add the fish (two fish if wok or pan is big enough). Fry in medium heat, turning the wok or pan every few minutes so that the whole fish is fried crisp. Turn fish only when done on the underside and fry the other side. Do not rush. Add more oil if there's not enough to fry the sides of the fish. The fish must be well-fried until crispy all over. Turn the fire up for the last few minutes of frying to give the fish a crispy toasted flavor.
4. Remove fish onto a serving plate, top with the fried garlic and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon each of dark soy sauce (and light soy sauce if like--I like Maggi soy sauce). Add about one tablespoon of the garlic oil if like (for health reason, I don't). Scatter some coriander leaves over and serve immediately with plain rice and a small saucer of bird's eyes chilies and calamansi limes.