If you have never tried eating a whole fish made with so much flavor, the South American mojarra dish is waiting for you to experiment. The idea of eating an entire deboned fish may sound squeamish at first, but there’s no going back once you try this tasty dish. Mojarra frita is a favorite fish dish eaten across Mexico, Colombia, and the Caribbean coast.
It consists of a whole tilapia fish cleaned, scored, deep-fried, and sometimes flavored with citrus. The frying gives an impressive-looking fish with a crispy and somewhat dry exterior skin. You will have to dig a bit deep to get the moist chunks.
The fried tilapia has a mild flavor and a firm, meaty texture and is often served with fried plantains or coconut rice. In many homes and restaurants across Mexico, you will find the mojarra fish being served along with a salad.
Mojarra Frita Mexicana
Mojarra Frita is among the numerous fried fish dishes prepared by different cuisines across the world. For many cultures, the fried fish dish seems to derive its inspiration from the Pescado Frito. It is possible that the Pescado Frito may have inspired the fish and chips dish traditionally enjoyed across England.
The introduction of the dish to England may have happened around the 1650s when Spanish Jews began to settle in England. So, what is Pescado Frito, and from where does it originate?
Pescado Frito translates to fried fish in Spanish as well as Judeo-Spanish. The dish seems to have originated from the southern coast of Spain, where it is regarded as a traditional dish. The Spanish people in inland Spain also enjoy this dish as a delicacy. The fried fish is widespread throughout the Mediterranean Basin and Greece.
Other regions where you can find the Pescado Frito include France and around the coastal areas of Italy, where variations such as salt cod fillets are used instead of the whole tilapia fish.
Fried fish is quite an old dish. The Romans in Ancient Rome consumed this dish. The 16th century Andalusian Jews of Portugal and Spain consumed it as a traditional Shabbat fish dish. They made the fish by deep-frying in vegetable oil. Deep frying made the fish crisp and light. The Jews made this dish a favorite for late breakfast and lunch on Saturday morning after attending synagogue services.
Today, many fried fish recipes will cover the fish with butter, egg, flour, and breadcrumbs before frying. Some people include various herbs and spices in the fish coating and seasoning. Fried fish is best served immediately after frying (while still hot), and you can have it as an appetizer or as a main course. Freshly cut lemon pieces are included in the serving.
You can squeeze them over your fish. If you have a scientific mind, the term mojarra refers to a family of Gerreidae, a family of freshwater fish. However, in Mexico, the term mojarra is used to identify freshwater cichlids, including tilapia.
Mojarra Frita Salvadorena
Mojarra frita Salvadorena is a variation of the Mexican mojarra frita and is very common in Salvador; it is a Salvadoran recipe that boasts finger-licking goodness that would leave you wanting more. Like the Mexican mojarra frita, the fish in the Salvadoran recipe is fried whole. However, there is a variation from other fried fish that you may have eaten before.
The mojarra frita Salvadorean does not have butter, flour, eggs, or bread crumbs coating its surface. The fish is prepared by marinating before frying, making the fish golden and crispy with a mouth-watering flavor.
The fish cavities are stuffed with onion slices before frying. The ingredients that go into the preparation of the Salvadoran recipe include yellow mustard, whole mojarra, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion, lime, and vegetable oil. The seasoning is prepared with mustard and other spices and spread over the fish to cover it entirely for marination.
The dish is also served hot alongside salad and lime wedges and is often accompanied by rice or other starchy food.
Mojarra Frita Colombiana
The key to making Colombian mojarra fritas stand out is using several herbs and spices. Fish fillets are dipped into beaten eggs or milk before they’re dredged through flour.
Then they’re fried with onion and garlic until golden brown, often served with white rice, French fries or vegetables cooked al dente (similar to Italian-style pasta). Some recipes call for tomato sauce mixed with butter, parsley or cilantro as well. If you want something more traditional, squeeze fresh lime juice over your mojarra before digging in!
Colombian chefs mix oil with oregano and add potatoes, yuca (plantain), onions, tomatoes and mojarra fish for making a delicious presentation of mojarra frita.
The best mojarra fritas in Colombia are found in Cartagena, a city on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. In one popular restaurant, customers can also watch as their meals are prepared. Restaurante El Cofre is located inside La Esmeralda Market, an iconic Cartagena spot where mojarra fritas were first made by fishermen in 1963.
These days you’ll see them everywhere, but Esmeralda’s is still considered one of the best spots to enjoy mojarra fritas colombianas!
Mojarra Frita Recipe
Want to impress your loved ones with a delicious and crispy dish? Here is an excellent recipe for you. The recipe is quick and straightforward to prepare, and the result is a delightful dish that you will all enjoy. You will love the ease with which you can prepare the mojarra frita.
For the mojarra frita
- 1 mojarra fish
- Bread crumbs
- Wheat flour
- 1 egg
- Powdered garlic
For the salad
- Lemon juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
- 1 teaspoon, white granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoon white vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A pinch of cumin
- ½ head green cabbage, shredded into thin pieces
- 1 carrot, grated
- 2 – 3 medium size tomatoes, sliced or cut into small pieces.
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
Prepare the salad
- Wash the vegetables in clean running water before processing them.
- Add the lemon juice, granulated sugar, vinegar, cumin, salt, and pepper in a good-sized container. You can use lime from two limes, but if you prefer a more robust lime flavor, feel free to add all the juice from the three limes.
- Stir well to make to prepare the dressing
- Add the cabbage, carrot, tomatoes, and cilantro into a big bowl and mix everything well.
- Into the bowl, pour in the dressing. Toss to make sure the dressing covers all the ingredients.
- Cover the bowl of salad using plastic wrap. Refrigerate for half about 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
Prepare Mojarra Frita
- Descale and clean the fish in cold water while removing any remaining innards. Rinse the fish thoroughly and dry it well using paper towels (You don’t want the water to affect the frying process).
- Using a sharp knife, make four diagonal cuts on each side of the fish, going down gently to the bone. This cuts allow the seasonings to infuse well into the inner meat and aid the cooking process.
- Season with salt, pepper, and garlic all over, including inside and into the cut cavities of the tilapia.
- Set up three plates to hold the raw scrambled egg, bread and crumbs, and wheat flour.
- Cover the fish with wheat flour followed by the raw egg. Next, cover the fish with bread crumbs.
- Heat oil in a frying pan. Use a sizeable pan that is deep enough to submerge the whole tilapia in oil.
- When the oil is ready, gently place the tilapia in the oil and fry each side for about 7 minutes or until the fish is cooked properly. The frying time may vary depending on the size of the fish.
- Remove the fish from the pan and pass it through paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Arrange in a serving plate. Neatly, add the salad to the plate. Add the sliced or wedged lemons. Serve immediately.
Salads always accompany a serving of mojarra frita. You can make any salad of your choice using your preferred ingredients. Cabbage, cucumber, celery, carrots, tomatoes, chickpeas, onions, cheese, chicken, shrimp, and whatever comes to your mind.
If you cannot find mojarra, you can try the recipe with another fish species such as trout, bass, or any other of your liking. The aim is to keep the fish whole and make it crispy.
You can also serve mojarra frita with tomatada.
Is Mojarra Frita Healthy?
Since mojarra frita is fried tilapia, we will look at the health concerns surrounding its consumption. A significant reason tilapia is becoming a staple in many homes is the versatility you can prepare it. You will also appreciate its cost and mild fishy flavor. Mojarra packs a lot of nutritional and health benefits.
Tilapia packs some nutritionally essential minerals. These minerals include calcium, selenium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. Your body needs calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium for strong bones and healthy muscles, while potassium helps your body maintain fluid balance and boosts nerve functions. Selenium supports your thyroid, reproductive and immune health.
Mojarra is also rich in important vitamins like vitamin D and vitamin b12. It is also a good source of choline and niacin. Many of the health benefits associated with tilapia come from its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids enhance the health of your heart and boost brain function, protecting it from conditions like dementia. In short, tilapia is a healthy addition to your plate.
However, you should be concerned about the source of your tilapia. Some farmers feed livestock dung to farmed tilapia. This practice may contaminate the fish with salmonella bacteria and cause foodborne diseases. However, this should not stop you from eating the nutritious and delicious mojarra frita. Source your fish from reputable farmers and suppliers.
Farm-produced tilapia is good for your health because it is not contaminated with mercury.
Another easy way to prepare mojarra fish is mojarra asada. Mojarra asada can be found on menus in restaurants throughout Colombia and Venezuela, and consists of fish that has been marinated overnight with salt, lemon juice, oil and sometimes garlic. After marinating, it’s grilled over hot coals until done.
Occasionally herbs like cilantro are added during marinating for an additional boost of flavor; many Colombians also add salt and a bit of brown sugar to their grill when cooking mojarra asada. Once cooked, it is served with white rice and black beans. It can also be eaten alone without any accompaniments.