Crispy Cantonese Fish Rolls
Updated: Oct 30, 2021
It's just been Chinese New Year - the year of the rat - so unsurprisingly there have been a lot of celebratory dishes written about in food magazines and shown on the TV. Many of these feature fish as fish is believed to be an emblem of prosperity (according to this article, there is also a bit of wordplay going on between the Chinese words for "fish" and "surplus"). Many of these feature a whole fish, steamed for example, but this is a dish, slightly adapted from one of Ken Hom's, for filo pastry rolls encasing an aromatic fish paste.
It's another of those recipes that put some of the cheaper fish, available on the stall at this time of year, to great use. Plaice, whiting, flounder and pollack are all gunning contenders. The recipe is really straightforward and quick to prepare, and the result is far more impressive than its simplicity might suggest.
All that remains is to wish you 恭喜發財.
All I've really done here that is different from the original recipe is to add fresh chilli and coriander to the fish paste for a little extra aromatic effect. The rolls can be prepared a few hours ahead and kept in the fridge until ready to fry, so this recipe is a handy one for a dinner party starter or canapé.
In terms of serving up, these fish rolls are obvious candidates for a dipping sauce and they can be as simple as a little soy sauce and a sweet chilli sauce. Ken Hom suggests to accompany them with a salt and pepper mix, where the pepper component comes from Sichuan peppercorns. This is an option of course, but I do recommend giving it a go as the aromatic flavour of the Sichuan peppercorns is very pleasing. I've put the method in the note below.
Cantonese Crispy Fish Rolls (makes approx 8)
200g skinless plaice (or alternative) fillet, roughly chopped
1 egg white
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
1 tsp cornflour, plus a little extra
1 spring onion, coarsely chopped
1 bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and coarsely chopped (optional or to taste)
1 tbsp coriander leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
2" piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Filo pastry sheets
Sunflower oil for deep frying
Lemon wedges to serve
In a blender put the fish pieces, half the egg white, the sesame oil, Shaoxing rice wine (or sherry), cornflour, spring onion, chilli, coriander leaves and some salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from the grated ginger (you can do this between two dessert spoons) and add this to the blender. Pulse (do not overwork) the mixture to create a coarse paste.
Cut the filo pastry sheets into approximately 6" x 9" pieces. Close to one short side put about 1 tbsp of the fish paste and form into a sausage shape. Roll up the pastry, tucking in the sides, and cut off any excess pastry. Brush the end with a little of the remaining egg white and seal. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining fish paste.
Heat the sunflower oil, in a saucepan, to 180°C. Dust the rolls with a little cornflour, shake off any excess and, in batches, deep fry for about 3-4 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and the filling has cooked. Drain on kitchen paper and when all the rolls have been fried, serve them with lemon wedges, your choice of dipping sauces and the salt and Sichuan pepper mix.
Salt and pepper mix: Use 2 parts Sichuan peppercorns to 3 parts coarse sea salt, e.g. 2 tsp and 3 tsp respectively for the above quantity of fish. Heat a dry frying pan and add the salt and Sichuan peppercorns. Allow to toast over a medium heat for about 1 minute until the salt starts to darken and the Sichuan peppercorns emit their aroma. Transfer to a cold plate and allow to cool, then grind using a pestle and mortar.