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How to Cut Fish Fillet the Right Way as told by Chef Ricardo Zarate



You would think that carving out those perfect, thin slices of fish fillets would be easy, right? No? Well, I DID and turns out I was wrong by quite a margin.

The other day James (my husband) and I thought, "hmm, why not get a bit funky with our dinner?!". So instead of the usual weekend routine of going out or ordering pizza, we decided to cook fish fillets. Not the usual boring pan-roasted fish fillets mind you, but fillets in a tight, lemony sauce to spruce things up a notch. (Where did I get the recipe for saucy lemon fish fillets? Off the Internet, of course.)

To my surprise though, even after following every step provided on the Internet strictly to the letter, the fish fillet dinner did not turn out to be like planned. It kept crumbling in the pan while cooking, and in the end we had to be content with a dinner of broken shards of fish in lemon sauce. Now, before you go judging me, I DO know a thing or two about cooking but apparently my mum had never taught me this particular recipe of lemony fish fillets!

Luckily enough, we had a brunch planned for the next day with our dear friend, Chef Ricardo Zarate, who also happens to be owner/founding chef of some of the most celebrated Peruvian restaurants across LA - Picca, Mo Chica and Paiche. And I was not going to let this golden chance to get my act straight regarding cooking funky fish fillets.

Rather unsurprisingly, as soon as I began to tell Ricardo about my misadventure with the lemony fish fillets, he at once knew where I must have gone wrong. According to him, the devil is in the way you slice your fish to carve out uniform fillets! Here is what he shared with me:

  • When carving out fillets of fish, always ensure that you are using a sharp and long knife (longer the better, though you can use medium size kitchen knives as well).
  • Once you have laid the fish before you, ensure that you slice the flesh going against the line.
  • Carve out thin slices with your knife going all the way up and down its sharp edge. (This is where it pays off to use a long knife, as with a short/medium knife you run the risk of running out of knife's edge while slicing or carving the fillet)
  • Never chop the fish to carve out fillets, like you do while cutting other meat like chicken or ham or beef. This is where I went wrong, and this is where most go wrong according to chef Ricardo. Simply chopping the fish like steak or slicing it going with the line, tends to break down the fillets and so you get broken shards, instead of uniform fillets.

What's more, Chef Ricardo even told me of a simple technique that I could have used to salvage my roughly cut fillets. Turns out that all I had to do to iron out the rough cut fillets, was to put them in a plastic wrap and pat gently with a spoon! Basically, what he told me was to tenderize the fish before cooking, but the great thing about this "tenderizing" process is that even if the fish fillets are poorly cut, they won’t break upon cooking!

I won’t hide it from you, I am a fan of Chef Ricardo for his excellent, authentic South American dishes, but this simple tip showed me just how much of a skilled artist he truly is! Next time you are in LA looking to try out some exotic South American dishes, take my word and head straight for any of Chef Ricardo's restaurants for a superlative experience.