Of all the confusing names given to seafood, probably none is as widely used as perch. Perch, according to biologists, is a small fish that inhabits the surf of the North Pacific. They are commonly caught by anglers throughout California. Perch, which is sold in markets under the names of ocean perch, Norway haddock, redfish and rosefish, is actually a member of the rockfish family, which includes the numerous varieties of Pacific rockfish.
Perch is caught on both coasts and is one of America's major commercial species, with more than 200 million pounds caught annually. Most prepared fish products, such as frozen fish sticks, are made from perch.
Bright Red Skin
More frequently, perch is found as fresh fillets in the supermarket with the bright red skin left on. It is likely to be less expensive than other rockfish and fairly mild flavored, although a bit stronger than other similar species. Fresh perch fillets should have bright red skin and white meat with no signs of discoloration. The flesh should be moist with no signs of drying. When very fresh, the fillets smell sweet and clean, like newly cut celery.
Perch seldom reach more than one foot in length, so the fillets are small, usually less than three ounces. These small fillets are difficult to grill, but are excellent deep-fried or baked.
IN LETTUCE LEAVES
1 pound perch fillets, skin removed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese dry rice wine or dry Sherry
6 thin slices ginger
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Outer leaves of iceberg lettuce
Cut fillets in slices 1 inch thick. Place in shallow dish. Combine soy sauce, wine, ginger and garlic. Pour over fish and set aside to marinate 30 minutes.
Carefully peel off enough lettuce leaves to wrap 1 leaf around each piece of fish. Blanch lettuce leaves a few seconds to tenderize. Cool in cold water.
With slotted spoon, remove fish from marinade, reserving marinade. Wrap each piece of fish in lettuce leaf, forming tight package. Steam on plate on steaming rack in wok with reserved marinade 5 to 8 minutes, or until fish can be easily pierced with wooden skewer. Makes 2 to 3 servings.