Trying a Whole Fried Fish at RuYi
RuYi is a small oasis of calm in the middle of the clanging
Potawatomi casino floor. The ringing of the slots permeates slightly through
the walls, but it's easy to pretend you're somewhere else when you've got
delicious Asian food in front of you. Dishes come from a number of different
cuisines, from Chinese-American favorite orange chicken to Vietnamese pho to my
favorite dish there, a Thai-style whole fried fish.
It's not offered every day, so call ahead, but I've found it's usually available on Fridays and Saturdays. You have your choice of fish, though the red snapper is recommended for this preparation. Your server will rattle off a number of prices based on the number and size of the fish available that night. It's something that's often shared among a couple diners, or even four people, depending on the size of the fish. Prices start around $24 for branzino, and about $30 for red snapper.
Whichever fish you choose, the chef will dredge it in cornstarch and then wok fry it whole, a very common and popular Thai preparation. Frying it creates a wonderfully crispy skin, with plenty of heartier crunchy bits, especially around the fins and head. (Don't be afraid to munch on those parts, too, like a fish potato chip!) The filets stay moist and tender, and lift from the bones easily. Eat one filet, then remove the backbone in one fell swoop, then attack the other filet.
The skin stays crisp even under the copious amounts of stir fried vegetables and sauce ladled over the top. A julienne mix of black mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, carrots and bamboo shoots is coated in a dark, rich sauce. Thai basil also makes an appearance, but I wish there was more. Two generous scoops of white rice are served alongside and soak up the sauce nicely. The menu describes the sauce as spicy, but despite the couple whole dried peppers, there's not much heat going on. That's OK, though: Just add some of the hot chile oil from the condiment tray on each table. Dredge up the chile paste at the bottom for a real punch. You can always cool off with creamy cocktail made with Thai ice tea for dessert.