SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Crispy fried whitebait coated in a luscious salted egg yolk sauce is full-on richness, but it's worth the labour involved.
I double-fry the whitebait for a crispier texture. It holds up fairly well even when smothered in the golden yolkiness.
Chilli padi gives the sauce an edge which keeps it from getting cloying.
Fried whitebait with salted egg yolk sauce
300g fresh whitebait
2 drops of Chinese rose wine
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp potato starch
½ tbsp rice flour
2 garlic cloves
2 sprigs of curry leaves
300ml cooking oil (for deep-frying)
2 tbsp cooking oil (for frying)
30g unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
10 cooked salted egg yolks (150g), finely minced
¼ tsp salt
2 chilli padi, finely sliced
1. Place the whitebait in a deep dish. Add the Chinese rose wine, Shaoxing wine and salt. Cover with clingwrap and leave to marinate for an hour in the fridge.
2. In a bowl, mix the cornflour, potato starch, rice flour and water. Add this to the whitebait and gently mix through so each whitebait is coated with the batter.
3. Strip the curry leaves off the stems. Discard stems. Ensure the leaves are dry.
4. In a wok, heat 50ml of the oil for deep-frying. Over medium-low heat, fry the curry leaves for 30 seconds until they turn emerald green and remove them from the wok immediately.
5. Place leaves on kitchen paper to soak up excess oil.
6. Add the remaining oil meant for deep-frying into the wok on medium heat.
7. Gently place the whitebait, one at a time, into the hot oil. Fry in small batches of five or six each to prevent the whitebait from sticking together.
8. Fry until the whitebait floats up in the oil and turns golden yellow in colour. Place the fried whitebait on kitchen paper to drain off excess oil (below).
9. As you are frying, use a fine mesh oil skimmer to skim off any loose bits of fried batter.
10. After finishing the batch of whitebait, heat the oil again. Briefly deep-fry the whitebait a second time for a crispier texture.
11. Place the whitebait on kitchen paper to drain off excess oil. Discard used oil.
12. In a clean wok, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil on medium-low heat. Add the butter.
13. Once the butter melts, add in the chopped garlic and fry until fragrant.
14. Lower the heat and add the salted egg yolks and chilli padi (below).
15. Stir and allow the mixture to cook until it turns foamy.
16. Add the fried whitebait. Stir-fry briefly until the whitebait is coated in the salted egg yolk mixture.
17. Season with salt.
18. Transfer the whitebait onto a serving dish and garnish with the fried curry leaves. Serve immediately.
Yields four servings.