How to Fry Fish

Four Methods:Prepare the FishBatter the FishFry the FishGarnish and Serve the Fish

Salt and pepper fish is a delicious Cantonese dish in which fresh fish is tossed in a sweet and spicy batter, fried in oil and served with fresh peppers and onions. Learn how to prepare the fish, make the batter, fry it to perfection and serve your salt and pepper fish the traditional way.


  • 1 pound boneless fresh fish (cod, tilapia, or another white fish)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Method 1
Prepare the Fish

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    Select fresh fish. Salt and pepper fish is only lightly battered, so the freshness of the fish really impacts the dish. Select fish filets that are firm, bright in color, free of bruises and spots, and not leaking liquid.
    • The fish should have a fresh saltwater smell that isn't too "fishy." If the smell makes you wrinkle your nose, the fish aren't fresh.
    • Make sure the fish you buy are boneless. You can test them by pressing your fingers on the flesh and feeling for small pin bones.
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    Clean the fish. Run cool water over the fish fillets to rinse them clean. Remove any skin or scales that may still be clinging to the fish. Use a small pair of pliers to remove any stray pin bones.
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    Cut the fish into pieces. Salt and pepper fish is served in bite-sized pieces, rather than whole filets. Lay the filets on a cutting board and use a sharp butcher knife to cut them into bite-sized squares about 2 inches (5.1 cm) across.
    • Cutting the pieces too small will result in overcooked fish.
    • If you wish to serve filets instead, skip to the next step.

Method 2
Batter the Fish

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    Make the spice mixture. Mix the salt, pepper and sugar in a small bowl. Use a spoon or a whisk to combine the ingredients thoroughly.For extra flavoring, consider adding red chili powder, garlic powder or other spices you like.
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    Sprinkle the fish with half of the spice mixture. Spread the fish pieces evenly across the cutting board. Use your fingers to sprinkle them with half of the salt, sugar and pepper mixture. Turn the fish over and sprinkle some on the other side to make sure each piece is evenly coated.
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    Toss the fish pieces in flour. Place the fish pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle the flour over them. Use tongs to toss the fish to make sure they each get a thin coating of flour.

Method 3
Fry the Fish

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    Heat the oil. Pour the oil into a shallow frying pan or cast iron skillet. Let the oil heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Test to make sure its ready to fry by dropping a bit of green onion in the pan. If it immediately starts to sizzle, the oil is ready for the fish.
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    Place the fish pieces in the pan. Use tongs to transfer the pieces from the bowl to the pan. Spread them in an even layer across the surface of the pan, making sure not to layer pieces on top of each other.
    • Fry the pieces on the first side until they turn golden brown.
    • Use the tongs to turn the pieces over and fry the other side.
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    Test to see if the fish is done. Remove one piece from the pan and set it on a clean cutting board. Slice the fish in half with a knife. If it's opaque and falling apart, it is ready to eat. If it is rubbery and translucent, place it back in the pan and let the fish cook for another 2 minutes.
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    Remove the fish pieces from the pan. Use the tongs to remove the pieces from the pan and set them on a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.
    • Handle the fish pieces gently, since they fall apart easily after they're cooked.
    • If you wish, fry green onions, pepper, chilis, and other vegetables in the hot oil before you remove it from heat.

Method 4
Garnish and Serve the Fish

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    Place the fish pieces in a serving dish. Use your fingers to sprinkle them evenly with the remaining half of the spice mix.
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    Garnish the dish. Place the fresh scallion, jalapenos, and any other garnishes you prepared around the fish pieces in the serving bowl. Use a large spoon to carefully mix the ingredients together, making sure not to break apart the fish.


  • Add a dash of Chinese cooking wine to the finished dish for authentic flavor.


  • Be careful not to burn yourself when frying the fish in hot grease.

Things You'll Need

  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Large bowl
  • Tongs
  • Frying pan or cast iron skillet
  • Serving dish and spoon

Article Info

Categories: Fish and Seafood