Fried Perch Is A Mild Favorite For Great Lakes Locals

If it's Friday night in Wisconsin and other Midwest states, you'll find most locals eating a fish fry, whether homemade or at a restaurant. Fried perch is one of the common fish fry menu options, which is enjoyed throughout the Midwest for its mild, non-fishy taste, per A Gouda Life. In addition to being served as battered and fried with a side of french fries, fried perch can be found in a variety of dishes in Ohio, including tacos (via Rooted in Ohio) and sandwiches. 

Perch has proven to be a popular menu option at Cleveland, Ohio's Flat Iron Café, according to Ohio Magazine. Originally only offered on Fridays, it began to be available daily starting in 1995. Now the perch that is bought from the fish market across the street from the restaurant is one of its most popular dishes. In Wisconsin, perch is still primarily a Friday night entrée, served deep fried with french fries or potato pancakes, coleslaw, tartar sauce, and rye bread for an authentic Friday night fish fry, according to Travel Wisconsin

A white flaky fish

There are two kinds of perch, according to Britannica: the common and the yellow perch, with both suitable for eating. Found in ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers, freshwater perch is a carnivorous fish. Native to North America, yellow perch has a primarily green body with yellow on its underside, per Strike and Catch. Being indigenous to the Great Lakes region of the United States, it is yellow perch that you are most likely to find on Midwest dinner tables.

Called a "resilient" fish by the Environmental Defense Fund, perch numbers have been restored, especially in Lake Erie, after habitat destruction affected populations. Lake Michigan has been another source for perch, but the population has also ebbed and flowed during the past few decades, according to Eat Wisconsin Fish. Once caught, if kept, yellow perch is enjoyed for its meat, which is firm yet flaky. According to Strike and Catch, there are quite a few bones in yellow perch that need to be removed before eating. However, if bought already fileted or prepared at a restaurant, the bones needn't be a concern.

How to make fried perch

When frying perch, A Gouda Life chooses to bread the fish fillets with seasoned cracker meal and then fry it in canola or vegetable oil, although peanut oil is also appropriate. Make sure the oil reaches a temperature of 375 degrees Fahrenheit before sliding the breaded fillets into it. It only takes about two to three minutes to fry the thin fish until they are golden brown and ready to be removed. A recipe from Taste of Home calls for cracker crumbs that are butter flavored. The crumbs are combined with garlic salt, dried oregano, dried tarragon, and pepper for even more flavor. Delishably opts to use a cast iron skillet for frying perch fillets that have been battered with bread crumbs and egg. 

While fried perch may be a popular way to enjoy the fish in the Midwest, it can also be prepared with a panko breading and cooked in the oven or cooked on the stovetop in butter and served with fresh herbs, per Insanely Good Recipes. However, a crunchy breaded fried perch, in contrast to its flaky white meat, makes it a crowd-pleaser no matter where you eat it.