Fried fish is very common in the Moroccan kitchen.
The Bondi Fish House on Campbell Parade in Bondi Beach has been selling the best fish and chips for longer than I can remember. In February 2020, when I was lucky enough to find myself in Sydney, Australia for my cousin Ari’s wedding, that was my first stop. Happily clutching my package of beer battered fried cod and chips, lemon wedges, malt vinegar and tomato sauce (Australian for ketchup), I crossed the road to the grass above the beach. I found a picnic table with a breathtaking view of the southern Pacific Ocean. I sat there, watching the surfers, the swimmers and the sunbathers enjoying a late summer day at the beach.
I unwrapped the butcher paper package and inhaled the fabulous smell. Fending off a few voracious (and chutzpahdik) seagulls, I dug into the perfection of the light crispy and flaky white cod. The creamy chips (French fries) just added to the bliss.
There are fish and chip shops everywhere in Sydney, especially at the many beaches along the pristine coastline and the little bays that dot the beautiful world-famous harbor. From Doyle’s in Watson’s Bay to the ones Rose Bay and Double Bay, these shops were the purveyors of the happiest food memories in my childhood. To this day, whenever I am at the beach, I crave fish and chips. Needless to say, we are frequent customers at the Fish Grill on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
I DISCOVERED THAT THIS QUINTESSENTIALLY BRITISH FOOD WAS ACTUALLY SEPHARDIC IN ORIGIN. THE FISH RECIPE WAS BROUGHT FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD BY THE SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE JEWS WHO SETTLED IN ENGLAND IN THE 17TH CENTURY.
Later in life, I discovered that this quintessentially British food was actually Sephardic in origin. The fish recipe was brought from the Mediterranean world by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who settled in England in the 17th century. The flour and water battered fish was known as ‘Pescado frito.’ In England it was referred to as “fish cooked in the Jewish manner.”
Enterprising Jews would sell the cold cooked fish from trays with leather straps hanging over their shoulders. Somewhere along the way, fried potatoes were added to the menu and beer was added to the batter. Around 1860, Joseph Malin opened the first fish and chip shop in London. An iconic British food was born and the rest is history.
Fried fish is very common in the Moroccan kitchen. For lunch, my mother would serve cold fried fish topped with a sauce made from fresh herbs, garlic, paprika and vinegar. When my children were younger, I would fry fish all the time and they loved it. Now that the children aren’t home as much and Neil and I are trying to be more health-conscious, I don’t make it so often. It’s a special treat when I do.
Neil enjoys his fish with creamy Agristada Sauce, a recipe from pre-Inquisition Spain. Similar to a béchamel sauce, this non-dairy sauce includes lemon, eggs, flour and oil.
In Spain, the ‘pescado’ was fried in olive oil, but in Turkey, the olive oil was too expensive, so they fried their fish in sunflower oil. That’s exactly what Sharon and I used to fry up our delicious cod. We serve our fish with a dill mayonnaise and an amba aioli.
Fried Fish Recipe
2 pounds cod, seabass, sole or halibut,
fillets, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large eggs
1 cup flour
Sunflower oil for frying
2 small carrot sticks
- Wash the fish fillets, arrange on a plate and pat dry with paper towel.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, then set aside.
- Dredge each fish fillet in flour, coating all sides.
- Dip fillets into the egg and create a light batter.
- Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the carrots to prevent the oil from burning.
- Working in small batches, slip the fish into the hot oil. Fry, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a tray lined with a brown paper bag to absorb excess oil.
- Keep in a warm place until serving
- Best when served piping hot with sauce of your choice.
Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and com munity cooking classes. Find recipe video clips and recipes on Instagram SEPHARDIC SPICE GIRLS and Facebook SEPHARDIC SPICE SEC FOOD.