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Pan frying can deliver tacos’ crunch without the fat

Healthy fish tacos, made without the added fat of deep-frying, get topped with a sweet and sour avocado-mango salsa.  (Associated Press)
Healthy fish tacos, made without the added fat of deep-frying, get topped with a sweet and sour avocado-mango salsa. (Associated Press)

Fish tacos certainly sound like a healthful meal. After all, experts encourage us to eat fish at least twice a week. And when you add a fresh tomato or fruit salsa, the dish seems downright virtuous.

That is, except for that whole deep-frying thing.

But you don’t need a fryer to get the satisfying crunch. There are several tricks for crafting crisp fish (or meats and vegetables, for that matter) that involve only a fraction of the fat needed to fry.

“Oven frying” is a great technique that can be used for getting crispy deep-fried results without all the fat.

Pieces of fish, chicken or pork can be dipped in egg white or a mixture of egg white and Dijon mustard, then coated with light and crispy panko (Japanese-style) breadcrumbs. If you like, you can add spices to the crumbs to boost flavor.

For this crispy fish taco recipe a different, but equally effective method is used to create crunch. Strips of tilapia are dredged in Wondra flour (sold in baking aisles and often used for gravies), which creates an excellent crust even when fried in only a tiny amount of oil.

Cayenne pepper, cumin and white pepper give the coating a spicy flavor. And if you don’t have Wondra flour or want a gluten-free alternative, rice flour works almost as well.

Top these crispy fish tacos with your favorite salsa or try this avocado-mango salsa, which will add layers of sweet, sour and creamy flavors to the spicy fish.

Crispy Fish Tacos

5 tablespoons Wondra flour

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into 1-by-2-inch strips

11/2 tablespoons canola oil

Canola oil cooking spray

8 soft corn tortillas, warmed

Avocado-mango salsa (recipe follows)

In a medium bowl, combine the Wondra flour, cayenne, cumin, salt and white pepper.

Place the tilapia pieces in the flour mixture, then toss to coat well. Shake the fish fillets gently to remove excess flour.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the fish, placing each piece in a bit of the oil. Cook until the bottom side is crispy and golden, 2 to 4 minutes.

Turn and cook until crispy, another 2 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately with warm corn tortillas and avocado-mango salsa.

Yield: 4 servings

Avocado-Mango Salsa

¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder

¼ teaspoon ground  coriander

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 small Hass avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 small, ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into a 1/2-inch dice

3 tablespoons lime juice

In a small dish, stir together the chipotle, coriander and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine the avocado, mango and lime juice. Toss lightly. Add the reserved spice blend and toss to coat.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition information per taco with salsa: 512 calories; 168 calories from fat; 19 grams fat (2 grams saturated; 0 grams trans fats); 57 milligrams cholesterol; 60 grams carbohydrate; 30 grams protein; 10 grams fiber; 443 milligrams sodium.



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