Since we have not ever seen or tasted this preparation with scales attached, we were not sure how the skin plus scales would taste, but, surprisingly, it just added nice crunch to the skin and the scales appear to be perfectly edible. Although it tasted OK, we were a bit disappointed that the scales did not open up as shown in Mark’s book. As a fried fish with an extra crunchy skin, it is OK especially with squeeze of lime.
This dish is based on a recipe in Mark’s book P40 “Deep-fried Tilefish” or “Amadai no Hana-age” 甘鯛の花揚げ. I never seen this type of preparation and I was just very curious and decide to try. It appears that “tilefish” includes quite a diverse species of fish. The Japansese name “amadai” 甘鯛 appears to represent Branchiostegus japonicus (most frequently) but there are many other species being called “amadai” or “tilefish”. When we had an “omakase” おまかせ dinner at “Kurita” くりた in Kyoto last time, we enjoyed a slightly salted kelp flavored (“kobujime” 昆布締め) amadai sashimi (they call it “guji” ぐじ in kyoto which come from the near-by “Wakasa” bay 若狭湾). There is some description that tilefish scales can be eaten but exactly for which spices or genus (genera), their scales can be eaten is difficult to figure out. I vaguely recall seeing Chef Moriomoto deep frying large scales from a carp in one of the Iron Chef America episodes. So apparently some fish scales can be eaten if cooked properly. Since I could not get a tilefish, I got a whole red snapper instead. This may have been a big mistake since red snapper and tilefish are quite different except for the superficial resemblance of being red. Actually, I read somewhere that fish being sold in the U.S. as “red snapper” includes many different species of fish. I have no idea what kind of a “red” fish I got.
I prepared fillets with the skin and scales on. The scales were rather large. Although I followed the recipe closely, because the scales of red snapper may be different from those of tilefish (this appears most likely), or because the skin was not dry enough or because I did not deep fry correctly, the scales did not “blossom” (the name “hana-age” means “flower-fried” indicating that the scales opens up like flower petals which is pictured on p38 of Mark’s book).
I salted the fillets and loosely wrapped them in kichen preachment paper and let them sit in the refrigerator for several hours. I dusted the meat side only with cake four and deep fried with skin side up first for 3-4 minutes and turned it over once and fried another minute or so.