I never enjoyed a restaurant more than the former Genghis Khan on Tulane Avenue, where for a moderate price you could hear piano and violin accompanied opera while eating whole fish and kimchi, among other Korean dishes.
The whole fish was a drum about 1½ feet long, fried into a crusty and juicy delight. My favorite parts were the moist meat and crunchy tail. But that was only half the fun.
Korean-born Henry Lee, a first violinist for the New Orleans Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra for 20 years, opened Genghis Khan as the first Korean restaurant the city ever knew. Tuxedo-clad, he both serenaded and served diners for 28 years. Performing with him almost nightly were other symphony and opera musicians as well as the occasional diner who chimed in. In the kitchen were his wife and other family members. The restaurant closed in 2004, and Lee moved to Houston after Katrina. He died at 76 in 2017, and Genghis Khan will long be remembered as a gem among now-shuttered restaurants.
The whole fish had a lasting effect on my choice of fish dishes. Given a choice, I always pick whole as opposed to filleted because, when not overcooked, the flesh remains moist, thick and succulent whether fried, broiled or baked. The skin cooks crustier, and the tail can be as crisp as a potato chip. I also oppose slicing through the skin in several parallel gashes, an unnecessary garnishment that reduces moisture in the final product.
I was recently inspired to cook some smaller whole fish after attending the opening of a new lakefront branch of the Crescent City Farmers Market. It is one of two new locations, bringing the total number of this long-time market up to seven with the promise of more fresh fish and seafood vendors in addition to many frozen aquatic options.
I came home with two whole 1-pound red Vermillion snappers, just right for a dinner for my husband and me. A Korean slant to the snapper in honor of Genghis Khan plus French fries from my new air fryer, in addition to fresh greens with tiny turnips from the new market gave us a fine dinner to remember.
KOREAN FRIED FISH
2 1-pound whole head-on snappers or drumfish
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 green onions, chopped
1. Make sure that fish are clean and well-scaled. Salt and pepper both sides of fish and inside pocket.
2. Mix flour and cornstarch. Place on a large plate or oval platter and set aside while making sauce.
3. To make sauce, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet. Add garlic and sauté in medium-hot oil until slightly browned. Add water, soy, sesame oil and hot pepper flakes and simmer for 3 minutes. Add green onions and simmer for 1 minute more. Set aside.
4. Prepare a large skillet with 1/3 cup vegetable oil heated to medium-high. Dredge fish in flour mixture, shaking off excess and fry in oil until brown on both sides. This should take about 10 or more minutes per side. Make sure not to burn by adjusting heat and checking often, lowering heat when necessary. You can cover the pan with a large top during part of the cooking to make sure that fish get done. Take out one fish when both sides are browned well, and check the thickest part with a fork to make sure it is done. Do not overcook. Remove fish to plates and spoon sauce over top. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Serves 2.
Farmer’s Market Fresh
The growing Crescent City Farmers Market now serves seven locations in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. Just in time for Lent, the new lakefront location at Bucktown Harbor will have an emphasis on fresh and frozen fish and seafood, according to Angelina Harrison, director of the market. For a list of locations and times, contact crescentcityfarmersmarket.org.