Fish Fillet and Lemon Butter

Growing up, my grandmother would cook strips of labahita, coated in flour to make fish fillet. While they were delicious, it was more of a texture rather than flavor driven. It was after all, just a fillet of fish, coated in flour, then fried. Later on, as I was learning to cook, my mom gave me a slab of labahita to fry.

Fish Fillet with Lemon Butter

Wondering how to cook it, one of my aunts who’d fry chicken in a marinade of calamansi (Philippine Lemon) and patis (fish sauce) sprang to mind. It sounded like a good idea at that time. I also remembered watching a cooking show on TV were the host was extolling the virtues of coating with cornstarch instead of flour for a lighter, crisper coating. Deciding to experiment, I applied both ideas to that slab of labahita. The result? Tasty, crispy fish fillets that everyone loved. Even my mom couldn’t find fault in it. We knew it was to be added at once to our list of recipes.

While the Fish Fillet recipe has been a stand-by favorite for years, it was only last week that I got the Lemon Butter down. In the past, I used to make lemon butter with melted butter and lemon juice. It was pretty so and so, and I’d get admonished for making too much and wasting butter.

One time, at a buffet though, I was served fish fillet with lemon butter that had the lemon butter in butter form. Inspired by that buffet, I experimented on my own lemon butter. Sure enough, it was a success. The flavor was more intense, it was easier to use and the leftovers could easily be kept for later use. So now, my Fish Fillet has finally met its match. Try them together–they make for a pretty satisfying meal.

Fish Fillet v. 25 November 2007

1 labahita (surgeonfish), filleted
3 Tbsp patis (fish sauce)
1 Tbsp calamansi (Philippine lemon) or lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
Oil for frying

1. Cut the labahita fillet into 1-2″ sized squares.
2. Mix the patis, calamansi and water. You can adjust measurements to suit your taste, but it should be salty-sour. The water’s added to lessen the sharpness of the flavor.
3. Marinate the fish in the patis-calamansi mix for 15-30 minutes.
4. Heat enough oil to submerge at least half the fish.
5. Just right before you fry each fish nugget, roll in cornstarch until coated. Don’t coat the fish earlier than that because it makes the crust tough instead of light and crisp.
6. Fry both sides until lightly golden. Drain on paper towels.

Lemon Butter v. 25 November 2007

1/4 cup butter (salted)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp labuyo or Tabasco sauce

1. Leave the butter out in room temperature until soft enough to cream. Don’t heat as it’ll melt. Instead, cut the butter into tiny pieces to speed up the softening process.
2. Add the lemon juice, hot sauce and a pinch of salt and pepper. Feel free to vary the quantity if you’d like it less spicy. If you don’t like it spicy at all, don’t add any. Mixing the lemon juice and hot sauce can be a bit difficult since butter is oil-based. Still, just continue mixing along as it will eventually blend into a thick, creamy spread.
3. Serve in a dish beside your fish fillet. If you have leftover lemon butter, place on a sheet of wax paper, roll into a cylinder and refrigerate for later use. It’s yummy on toast!

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24 Responses to Fish Fillet and Lemon Butter

  1. nina says:

    Hmmm, I wonder how this would fare with using salt and lemon for the fish, instead of patis and kalamansi (as our pantry is not stocked with both). What I used to do to make fish fingers (silly name, I know!) was just salt, pepper and some coriander, then coat with egg and flour. Will try it with cornstarch next time!

    • kaoko says:

      I don’t see why lemon and salt won’t work, as long as you get something sour and salty in. As long as you’re working with something wet to make the cornstarch stick. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out, so I can append it to the recipe. (Hehe, I never realized how silly fish fingers are until you pointed it out. At least Chicken Fingers work to some extent :P)

      • nina says:

        Kaoko! I tried this for dinner kanina, and it was a hit! I did it a little differently though. My marinade was salt, pepper, finely chopped celery leaves and lemon. For the breading, I dipped it in flour, egg and homemade bread crumbs (made with multi-grain bread). The kids loved it! It has the right amount of crispiness in the outside, and very soft inside.


      • kaoko says:

        I like the sound of your version, although I wouldn’t even call it that. It’s a totally new recipe, Nina-style! And if you managed to make kids eat fish, it must be really good! Must try it myself 😀

  2. liz tolentino says:

    hi there!

    im just lurking two weeks ago, its been a habit to drop by since, i cannot help, i’ve been smitten by your bentos! before, its just plain old school lunchbox to me, talking about seeing the “baunan” in a whole new light heehee…
    i’m now daydreaming what bento combinations to make for my little daughter to bring with her to school :)
    kudos to you!
    newfound fan here…

    • kaoko says:

      Hi Liz! Glad to know you’re liking the site, makes all the effort worthwhile 😀 I have to admit, my packed lunches used to be just plain baon until I ran into a bento site roughly more than a year ago.

      Goodluck making bento for your daughter, it will be a fantastic way to get her to try a variety of food. And hope you keep visiting 😀

  3. khursten says:

    Gah!! Fish and Lemons! My favorite~~

  4. Liz Tolentino says:

    Hi Kaoko!

    I have to say this, im really loving your site!
    I spent most of the afternoon yesterday and went through the rest of your archives! The bento entries were so darn cute! I’m amazed how simple ingredients lying in the pantry can turn into really satisfying meal, not to mention really appealing to the eyes…
    I’l let you know how my adventure with bentos turned out for me and my dear daughter…
    Keep up the works!
    (meanwhile i have to check out your other bento links…:))

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  12. Marie says:

    can i substitute tuna with labahita?

    • kaoko says:

      I wouldn’t recommend tuna, Marie, since it tends to cook differently, usually being denser. I’d suggest fish with white meat like labahita, lapu-lapu or tilapia.

  13. Ayn says:

    I’ll be trying this tonight or tomorrow! I happen to pass by this blog and loved it. Now I can do something about all the fish in the freezer :) Linked you 😉

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  15. kaoko says:

    Thanks Ayn, glad you like it 😀

  16. mary says:

    hi, thanks for the fish fillet with butter sauce recipe. i tried and it tastes real good.

    kudos to your site!

  17. kaoko says:

    Glad you found it useful Mary! I still use the same recipe, too 😀

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