Unlike with other meats, fish doesn’t usually offer up “lesser cuts”. (The brilliant Australian Chef Josh Niland would, justifiably, take issue with that statement as you’ll see in his “The Whole Fish Cookbook”.) If you don’t want to spend the money on an expensive rib eye steak or filet mignon, you could opt for a hanger steak or a top sirloin steak. With fish though, there aren’t as many options…enter the fish collar. The plate of bone that is directly behind the gills of a fish has lots of succulent meat tucked into it.
In Sushi restaurants the collars of Hamachi are often grilled and offered as a limited special. At PROXI the halibut collar was a way to offer exceptionally moist and tender fried halibut that was affordable and really fun to dig into.
Halibut collars are larger than most other available fish collars but you could easily make this dish with snapper collars or sea bass collars, if you can find them. If you have a local fish market they will likely give you a pretty good price on the collars…and be impressed that you even asked! The sauce however, is spectacular on just about anything so don’t let a lack of fish collars stand in your way. A fried filet of fish would work just fine.
Fried Fish Collars with Thai Garlic-Chili Sauce
- 8 pc fish collars, about 6 oz each, cleaned by your fishmonger or 2 whole fish (red snapper for example) about 1.5-2 lbs each, cleaned by your fish monger and/or fish fillets that you like (one per person about 5-6oz each)
- 1/2 cup white rice flour
- 2 Tbs tempura flour
- 1-2 Tbs salt
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 12-16 sprigs of cilantro
- 8 cups vegetable oil (or enough to fill a Dutch oven or wide pot to a depth of about 6 inches)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 3 Tbs minced shallots
- 1.5 Tbs sambal oelek (a chili paste)
- 3 Tbs chopped cilantro
- 1 Tbs minced garlic
- 2 Tbs fish sauce
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 1/4 cup tamarind water (made from 4oz seedless tamarind and 3 cups water…warmed up…mashed and then strained)
- Pre-heat an oven to 200 F.
- Pre-heat the oil in a wide pot or dutch oven to 350 F.
- Have a sheet pan lined with paper towels topped with a rack handy.
To make the sauce:
- Heat the vegetable oil in a sauce pan.
- Add the shallots, cilantro and garlic.
- Cook for about two minutes until the shallots are softened.
- Add the samabal, fish sauce, sugar and tamarind water.
- Cook about three minutes more.
- Remove from heat and keep warm.
For the fish collars:
- Lightly season the collars with salt.
- Combine the rice and tempura flours.
- Completely coat the collars in the flour mix and add them in batches to the hot oil.
- Fry about 4-5 minutes or until lightly golden brown and hot all the way through.
- As the collars are finished remove them from the oil and put them on the rack over the paper towels to drain.
- Keep warm in the oven as you cook the remaining collars.
Put some of the sauce down on four plates. Top the sauce with the fish collars. And then some cilantro sprigs and the lime pieces. Serve.