Crispy Fish Roll

Among the many banquet dishes I enjoyed as a child, this one, with moist, fresh minced fish encased in a crispy crust, was especially memorable. I have never seen it served outside my uncle’s restaurant, which makes me wonder if this is a Chinese-American invention or an authentic Chinese dish. My guess is that it is one of my uncle’s ad hoc inspirations. But it really doesn’t matter because you’ll find it absolutely delicious.

Caul fat, the lacy membrane from the abdominal cavity of the pig (which can be obtained from a butcher), encloses a tasty mixture of fish blended into a well-seasoned paste. The parcel is fried until very crispy, then sliced and served with lemon wedges and seasoned with salt and pepper. The magic touch, I discovered, was a bit of pork fat, which gives the roll a richness of taste and flavour. The caul fat also serves to keep the roll moist.

This fish filling can easily be made in a food processor, and it can be prepared hours in advance of the frying. However, it should be fried and sliced at the last possible moment. It is served with Roasted Salt and Pepper, which can also be prepared ahead.

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  • 450 g (1 lb) firm white fish fillets, such as sea bass or halibut
  • 115 g (4 oz) pork fat
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 225 g (8 oz) caul fat, for wrapping
  • Potatoflour or cornflour, for dusting
  • Groundnut oil, for deep-frying
  • Lemon wedges, to garnish
  • Roasted Salt and Pepper, to garnish


Finely chop the fish fillets and blend them with the pork fat, egg white, salt, pepper, cornflour and water in a food processor until you have a smooth paste.

Cut the caul fat into 4 pieces each 30 × 46 cm (12 × 18 in.) Lay out 1 piece of caul fat, place a quarter of the fish mixture on 1 short end, fold in the sides and roll up tightly. Dust the fish roll with potato flour and set aside. Continue until you have four fish rolls ready.

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat until it is hot. Pour in the groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, drop in the fish rolls and fry for 6 minutes, or until they are brown and crispy. Remove and drain well on kitchen paper.

Slice the rolls into bite-size portions and serve at once with the lemon wedges and roasted salt and pepper dip.