If I’m a good cook, my mother’s even better…
The great irony about my growing up and eating my mother’s wonderful home cooking is that she always claimed to not like cooking. Odd, because she is so good at it and she likes to eat. Usually the worst cooks are the ones who don’t like food. Sure, they’ll eat it to stay alive, but not to enjoy it. If the sole purpose for eating is just to keep from dropping dead, what’s the point!
My mom cooked with a very light hand as that is how you achieve precision in seasoning: you don’t want under or over-salted dishes. This is one of the most important food lessons I got from my mom.
One way to tell you’ve got some skill as a cook is if you can prepare simple dishes well. The ones that require few ingredients and steps are deceptively easy as they leave little room for failure. Like this fish fry that is as Korean as it gets.
If it looks easy, that’s okay. You won’t have a problem executing this dish as long as you don’t make it too salty. Or not salty enough. That’s where your sleight of hand will come in handy.
This is how my mom used to make it:
Pan fried fish (생선 전)
1 lb firm white fish filet e.g. cod
flour for dredging
oil for frying
salt & black pepper
1. Sprinkle your fish with a little salt* and let sit for a few minutes (Chang Sun-Young’s recipe calls for soaking the fish in salted water for 5 minutes which is a good idea as it will evenly distribute the salt on your fish, but I’m too lazy for all that).
2. Slice the fish in thin pieces, about 1/2″ thick (thicker or thinner if you like). Heat your pan on a medium-low flame and add a thin layer of oil (I like safflower oil myself) when it’s hot enough.
3. Dredge your fish in flour that has been seasoned with a little black pepper and lay them out on a plate or tray.
4. Add a little water and salt* to your eggs and beat with a fork until frothy. Dip your fish into the egg one at a time and fry in your hot oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side until nice and golden.
5. Serve your fish right away if possible. A little soy sauce on the side is nice too.
*Really it’s subjective how much a ‘little salt’ is for people. I tend to err on the side of under-pinching because you can always make it saltier later, but no way to make it less.
Don’t like fish? You can use zucchini instead: