A COUPLE of weeks ago I wrote extensively on the Andalucian way of frying fish, especially mussola, or cazón as it is known on the mainland. The Andalucians are arguably the world's best fish fryers, and they always get excellent results, either with thin batters or a simple coating of flour. There are many tapas bars around town where you can find good examples of Andalucian-style fritura, as the deep-frying of food is called in Spanish. But I know of only one place that specialises in frituras and is also 100 per cent Andalucian. It is called El Sur Marino and it is in Calle Industria, just opposite the windmills. It is owned and run by an Andalucian called Juan Guerrero with the help of his family, all of whom were born in Seville, which is famous for its impeccable frituras. EL Sur Marino is a classic freiduría, the name given to shops and restaurants that specialise in deep-fried food. It is set up in the traditional style, which means that there are no frills of any kind, either in the decor or the table settings. When you sit down at a table you get an earthenware dish and a small fork because that is what one uses in authentic Andalucian freidurías. But anyone who wants a big plate and a knife and fork can have them. However, when in Rome... I always go native at El Sur Marino, so I would never request a dinner plate with a knife and fork. In fact, I don't even use the small fork that is provided, preferring instead to eat the fish with my fingers. Andalucian deep-fried food actually tastes better that way. Most of the dishes can be ordered in half portions, in which case they are served on small plates. Full portions are served in brown paper cones. There is a reason for the brown paper cones. One of the hallmarks of the best Andalucian deep-fried fish is its almost complete lack of residual oil. The brown paper cones are a giveaway: if the fried fish contains too much surface oil it visibly stains the brown paper. If that were the case, the customer would realise the fryer didn't know his job and he would go elsewhere. So the brown paper ensures that the fryer uses clean oil and at the right temperature.
THE list of specialities at El Sur Marino is a long one and includes gambitas fritas (little fried prawns), fillets of monkfish, skate and mackerel as well as squid and cuttlefish. They also do a dish with the jokey name of calamares de campo. This literally means country squid and it consists of rings of onions and green peppers coated with flour and deep-fried, so that they look like rings of calamares a la romana. Fillets of monkfish are a treacherous ingredient for the cook because it is difficult to cook them just right. If they are underdone they are on the tough side and if overcooked they are soft and mushy. But at El Sur Marino they fry them spot on so that the flour coating is a delicious golden colour and crisp, while the flesh is juicy and tasty. They do a superb version of pescaito, tiny whole fish like fresh anchovies that are coated with flour and plunged into deep oil. They come out hot and crisp and free of residual oil.
YOU could order just about any of the dishes on the menu and you'd get something very good every time. But what you mustn't miss is their cazón en adobo. This is the dish I wrote about two weeks ago, mussola, as it is known in Majorca, or smooth hound, as we call it in English. The term “en adobo” means marinated because deep-fried cazón is always left for at least a couple of hours in a marinade of vinegar and water plus garlic and herbs. The marinade is necessary because cazón can be a rather insipid fish and the marinade gives it a nice injection of extra flavour. The marinade calls for the judicious use of vinegar: it must be noticeable, but in the background, not up front. At El Sur Marino the vinegar flavour is just right, as if a computer had calculated the exact amount. The garlic and herbs help to make this dish a really tasty morsel. It is so good I don't see how it could possibly be bettered.
THE Andalucians have a special white flour for the making of fritura and, of course, it is used at El Sur Marino. It has a roughish texture, not unlike semolina, and it gives the coating a nice golden colour. Its coarse texture also means that it doesn't burn as easily as the much finer plain or self-raising flours. Good Andalucian fish frying also depends on using clean oil at the right high temperature. And not just any old oil, but a good olive oil. Andalucia produces more olive oil than any other regional area in the world and a good Andalucian cook would never even consider using any other kind of oil. A good fritura also calls for another essential element: fresh fish. Juan Guerrero says that the best Andalucian frituras start with very fresh fish. As fish coated with flour and deep-fried is such a simple fish, that if it were anything less than recently caught it would be noticeable. Juan goes to the fish market every day except Sundays and Mondays to get the best of that day's catch. But he does admit to using frozen cazón. But when you taste it, you'd never guess that it was not fresh.
Freiduría Andaluza “El Sur Marino”, Calle Industria 16, Palma (opposite windmills). Tel: 971-452437.
They do a menú del día (8 euros), Tues-Fri that always includes some of the fritura. Closed Mon.