Two things I have major love for are supporting local businesses and hot sauce. When both are combined: what a great day. Recently I spoke at an event about how private investors can support local food entrepreneurs. Several of my favorite local businesses were there, too. I also had the opportunity to meet a few more new food producers.
Diana Liao Andes shared her chili chutney with me the story of her new company Liao's Food. We bonded immediately chatting about scaling up her treasured family recipe and sourcing ingredients from New Jersey farms. Diana's father Liao was born raised in India. After moving here to the United States, he had a successful Chinese restaurant for almost three decades. Diana is continuing the family food business now by bottling her father's famous spicy sauce.
Lunar New Year is one of my favorite times of the year. Honestly, I never have my act together to make a resolution or say goodbye to the prior year on January 1st. When Lunar New Year arrives I feel ready. Bonus - the party lasts for 15 days. That gives me plenty of time to spend time with family and friends, cook and really launch into a new year. I try to take on eating or cooking something new each year. Last year, I taught a class with whole crispy fish, noodles for longevity and jiaozi, pork filled dumplings. This year, I decided to play around with using a vegetable component as the noodle. I happened to have a batch of my dumplings ready to go in the freezer.
Diana told me, "I was speaking to my Dad about some traditional Chinese New Year recipes and depending on the province they came from the traditions will be different. However, the usual staples would be dumplings and whole fish. The fish is traditionally served whole (with head and tail). It's a symbol of good luck."
Because red is a lucky color during the new year, I chose a red snapper when I visited my fishmonger. There are two ways to prepare this dish. Diana and I both love the crisp exterior when the fish is briefly fried. Her father suggests a healthier option of steaming. In that case, the fish is placed in a steamer basket over simmering water. Once it is cooked through using either method, it is covered with a flavorful sauce.
Crispy Fish with Liao's Food Chile Chutney
1- 1 1/2 lb whole red snapper
1 cup peanut or canola oil
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup rice flour or all purpose flour
1 large carrot
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Liao's Food Chili Chutney
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh ginger, julienned
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
kosher salt and pepper
1. Using a vegetable peeler, mandoline or spiralizer, shave the carrot lengthwise into long "noodles."
Put them in a bowl and toss with the scallions and cilantro. Sprinkle with kosher salt, toss to combine. Set aside.
2. Rinse and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Check to make sure all the scales are removed. Lay the fish flat on a cutting board and cut three vertical slits into the side of the fish. Turn over and repeat. Salt and pepper the fish on both sides and inside the cavity. Dust with the flour to coat.
3. In a frying pan pan large enough to contain the fish, heat the oil to 350 degrees. Carefully lower the fish into the oil away from you to prevent splashing. Once the fish is golden brown on the bottom side, turn it over. (I like to have two pairs of tongs at the ready to help flip the fish safely. Use one pair to grip below the head and the other above the tail.) After crisping up the second side, remove the fish to a serving platter.
4. Turn off the heat. Pour the hot oil through a wire mesh strainer into to a heatproof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup. Discard the solids in the strainer.
5. Put 1/4 cup of the strained oil back into the pan. Add the ginger and garlic. Saute until softened. Add the chili chutney. Stir to combine and heat through.
6. Pour the sauce over the fish. Top with the carrot noodles.
Where to get it:
Liao's Food Chili Chutney is available at several specialty and Asian food markets in New Jersey. You can also find them this weekend at Kan Man Foods in East Hanover and the Cranford Artisan Winter Market on Feb. 27, Mar. 12 & 19. Details on their site for locations.