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Deep-fried fish is a popular dish in several parts of the world, including the United States, Japan, and England. It is described as fish that has been coated in breading or batter and then immersed in oil until the outside is golden brown and the fish is cooked through. This dish is commonly prepared with mildly-flavored fish of both fresh and saltwater varieties, which can be coated in either a dry or wet batter. Once cooked, the fish may be served as-is or topped with a sauce.
Although any type of fish can technically be deep fried, the preferred varieties for this dish are generally mild in flavor yet firm in texture. Saltwater fish such as cod and halibut are some of the most popular, especially in Asia, Europe, and North America, for deep-fried fish dishes. Bass and tilapia are also often cooked in this manner, and are some of the most popular freshwater fish used. Among other common freshwater fish for deep frying are crappie and walleye.
Nearly as important as the type of seafood used for deep-fried fish is in what it is coated. Dry coatings, which are made by dredging the fish in flour, egg, and then a seasoned outer coating, are one of the most popular for deep-fried fish. The outer coating can be made from nearly any type of breadcrumb, corn meal, or even plain flour. Other common ingredients included in a dry coating are potato flakes, hard grated cheese, and numerous spices and dried herbs. This type of breading provides a thin, even coating for the fish, and is usually slightly crisp once cooked.
Wet batters are also popular for deep-fried fish as they generally provide a crunchier exterior. For a wet batter, several dry ingredients similar to those used in a dry batter are mixed together, and then a slow stream of liquid, oftentimes beer or club soda, is whisked in until a batter forms. To cause the coating to expand, a small amount of baking soda can be added, which causes the batter to puff up around the fish when it is exposed to hot oil.
Deep-fried fish is commonly served with a sauce or other seasonings. Lemon juice squeezed over the top is one of the most popular, and those in the United States often use tartar sauce, which is a combination of mayonnaise or dressing, relish, and other seasonings. In Japan, tentsuyu sauce is popular, which is made from a mix of soy sauce, rice wine, and cooking stock. In England, where deep-fried fish is served as a platter known as fish and chips, malt vinegar is often the desired seasoning after frying.