Sunday, December 13, 2015

Simple recipe for whole Tilapia: savory, sour (spicy, optional) and sweet too!

If you're raised somewhere else other than the United States or Europe, chances are-you will eat this with your bare CLEAN hands. Otherwise, the same kind of people are also expert in using tableware to eat and clean out cooked fish, served whole. If you can't handle the fish head, eyes and skin-this is not for you (smile).  Recipe way down below please.


  •  Large pot or large Sautoir pan (pron. as "saw-twah"; with straight sides). Photo courtesy to Falk Culinair. It doesn't have to be copper.
  • kitchen spatula for cooking (wood or stainless steel)  

Ingredients for 2-4 people:

2 large whole Tilapia. 

If it's frozen, you will have to remove the gills yourself at home. Otherwise, if it's thawed thoroughly, have the meat department people remove them for you. If you're from other parts of the world, chances are you also have to remove the scales and innards yourself. Trim or have it trimmed off of the fins and tail. Salt liberally (about 1 tablespoon each fish) and set aside.

1/4 cup of cooking oil (light olive oil, soy, canola)

6 to 8 medium tomatoes, sliced lengthwise into 4

1 medium onion, sliced crosswise

7 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

2 thumb-size of ginger; peeled, smashed and minced

1/2 cup or more of clear cooking vinegar (white wine is good; also coconut, rice, palm; gold apple cider)

1/2 cup of water or more to cover the fish

salt and black pepper to taste

Red pepper flakes (optional)


Part 1: 

Read above until the end before preparing your ingredients; set aside. 

Rinse the salted fish and pat dry; set aside on a plate. 

Part 2:

Preheat the pot or pan on medium high heat or 375°F or 190°C. If your stove knobs only indicates numbers 0-10, set the knob to 7. That would be about 3 minutes.

*** No kids or pet/s in the kitchen by about this time please! ***

Pour the oil on the pot or pan and wait a bit more until you see smoke coming out of the pot/pan.

Carefully, lay the fish and pan fry it. Around this time, you can add oil; just remove most of it when you are ready for Part 3 below. 5 minutes each side.

Remove and set aside on a plate.

Part 3:

If you added oil from Part 2, this is the time to remove most of it. Use a heat-proof container (metal or otherwise); NOT plastic-for that hot oil!   

Set the stove knob to 8 or 400°-450°F.

Add the the garlic on same pot and saute. When almost brown, add the ginger and onions. 

Salt and pepper to taste; saute quickly, 1 minute.

Lay the fish on top of the sauteed garlic, onions and ginger. Cover with the vinegar ingredient, water and tomatoes. Let it boil for 1 minute then drop the heat to medium or #5 to simmer. 

REFRAIN from poking or digging onto the ingredients. You don't want that fish or tomatoes broken into pieces! 


By about this time, you should be able to identify how you (or your family) want this dish to taste. For me, I wanted it savory and sour so I added a bit more salt & vinegar/white wine plus black pepper. I also added a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes to give it a kick! 

Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Refrain from uncovering until your other accouterments (toasted piece of bread maybe? etc...). This can be eaten alone. 

I enjoyed it with boiled, cooked rice. The tomatoes gave this dish color and also both tart and sweetness.... BURP!