If you don’t know the beauty of fried ochro, caraille (may also be seen as caraili/caraaili/carailli) and ‘saltfish’ then you are missing out on delicious, salty goodness and quite frankly, most of life. Saltfish fried by itself or with ochro and caraille is an immediate cause for drool. It’s salty, flavourful and crispy. However, there are a few tricks to achieving the perfect fry, with a golden-brown colour and brilliant crispiness and texture. Here are our tried and true tricks for achieving the perfect fry.
#1 Salt Your Caraille (bitter melon)
Most persons don’t like caraille because of its overpowering, bitter flavour. However, due to its rough exterior and texture, caraille crisps up beautifully if pan-fried. The best and easiest way to rid caraille of its signature bitterness is to salt, squeeze, rinse and squeeze. Salt draws most of the caraille’s water out (this also helps the caraille to crisp). The water contains a lot of the bitterness from the caraille and thus, improves the flavour of the vegetable. Salt the caraille well, toss it and leave for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, squeeze the water out and rinse. Let the caraille dry properly and then proceed to fry.
#2 Soak And Flake Your Saltfish
Often, saltfish isn’t prepared to its utmost potential. It can either be too dry, too salty, not salty enough or chunked instead of flaked. We recommend soaking whole filets in boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, using your hands or a fork, flake the fish and then fry. This method removes just enough salt and keeps the flavour of the saltfish while not leaving it too salty. Flaked fish, fries much better than chunks of saltfish because little pieces on its surface area can crisp up and get golden-brown.
#3 Dry Your Ochro
Fried ochro is delicious but one of the major problems is how slimy it gets at the slightest hint of moisture. Even something as simple as slicing ochro with a wet knife can completely ruin your dish or guarantee that you’ll be drying it out on the stove forever. We recommend placing the sliced ochro, cut-side up on a baking sheet and either drying it in the sun (at least the dry season will be good for something) or at a very low temperature in the oven for a few minutes. This dries most of the slime in the ochro and ensures excellent crispiness of the ochro.
#4 Fry Your Ochro First
Similar to the previous point, moisture, even the tiniest bit, can affect the proper frying of your ochro. Onions and saltfish (if adding) contain moisture and release some of this when it starts sauteing in oil. We recommend frying the ochro first in order to seal it off from the moisture. This guarantees a perfectly brown and crispy fried ochro dish.
#5 Use A Non-Stick Pot And Wooden Turner
Non-stick pots take a lot of the work out of scraping off brown bits from the bottom of your pan (and we all know these bits have a tonne of flavour). Additionally, saltfish tends to stick a lot to the bottom of the pan because of its water content so, a non-stick pan is the safest route to go. A wooden turner has a paddle shape that makes it extremely easy to gently scrape brown bits off the pan. Its wide edge and wooden material ensure that you can quickly scrape a lot of surface area from the bottom without damaging your pan.