Reid’s Birch Island Resort, in the heart of Ontario’s Sunset Country, is renowned for its fishing. Whether you’re going up there to target the abundant walleyes, trophy muskies, smallmouth bass or pike, chances are you will not be disappointed by the fishing opportunities. But I’ve got a confession to make. With all of the years of me doing this fishing gig for a living, I always check out what the food options are at a particular lodge or resort that we’re going to. I guess sometimes I take the fishing for granted, as I’ve had the opportunity to fish all over the world in my career, but boy I love my food equally as well.
One of the things I have to admit after visiting a lot of different resorts that my long-time buddy Phil Reid has been associated with, is that he does not spare anything when it comes to food at the resorts that he’s been with.
For example, there’s the fine dining that can be found on Reid’s little island only a mile or two from the village of Minaki. We’re talking about exquisite cuisine at this lodge. Grilled beef tenderloin with wild mushroom, sundried tomato and bourbon sauce; pecan studded chicken in a honey garlic rice wine glaze; Cajun pickerel with charred tomato salsa and lime curry aioli are just a few examples of what you can get in the dining room. This is not your typical “pork and beans” type fishing camp! This is fine dining at its best.
There’s no question that anybody who’s ever had a shore lunch at a fishing resort will never forget it. Everything always seems to taste better when you’re eating it outside! At Reid’s Birch Island Resort they’ve got the traditional pan-fried walleyes and pike, but you can also get sweet and sour; stir fried, baked or even honey mustard walleyes prepared.
Over the years I’ve had my share of shore lunches and the ones at Reid’s Birch Island Resort are second to none. This recipe is one of my favourite ways that they can cook your fresh walleyes at lunchtime.
Reid’s Sweet and Sour Walleye Stir Fry
6 Walleye fillets cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
1 tbsp garlic powder
3 cups flour
1 cup cracker crumbs
5 tbsp Hy's seasoning
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 cup maraschino cherry juice (you can also use pineapple juice)
1⁄4 cup water
3 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp ow-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp of water to thicken the sauce (or you can use a prepared sweet and sour sauce)
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
3⁄4 cup sliced green bell pepper
3⁄4 cup sliced red bell pepper
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1⁄2 medium yellow onion, sliced
Optional: sliced mushrooms
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
Combine flour, cracker crumbs and seasoning salt; set aside.
Completely cover the walleye cubes with the flour mixture. Deep-fry in oil until golden brown. A 1 ½-inch cube should take about 1 to 2 minutes to cook if the oil is at the right temperature. Before frying your fish, make sure the oil is sufficiently hot. To test if it's ready, drop in a piece of fish; if it sinks and doesn't quickly bubble back up to the surface, the oil isn't hot enough. Also make sure that the oil remains hot until the fish is fully cooked; lower temperatures mean a longer cooking time, and the longer the fish sits in the oil the soggier it will get.
Working in batches, drop the fish pieces into the pan one by one. Deep-fry the fish until lightly golden. Do not overcook. Remove the cooked fish from the pan, and transfer to a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
If you make your own sweet and sour sauce:
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the sweet and sour ingredients. Set aside.
In a pan, heat 1 tsp of oil over high heat, cook garlic and ginger until fragrant (about 10 seconds). Whisk the sweet and sour sauce into the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and glossy (about 5-minutes) or until you have just enough sauce to wrap around the crispy pieces of fish, about 11⁄4 cups. Adjust seasoning with extra sugar and/or vinegar if needed or until you reach your desired taste. Remove from the heat, set aside.
In a clean pan, heat about 1 ½-tbsp of oil over high heat. Cook the diced onion, mushrooms, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper until tender. Add the fish cubes back into the skillet, then pour in the sweet and sour sauce. Toss to combine. Remove from the heat and serve.
Generally the shore lunches are served with homemade fries, breads, vegetables and dessert. We’re talking about some pretty amazing food served up on one of the shorelines of the Winnipeg River system. Believe me, over the years I’ve had my share of shore lunches and the ones at Reid’s Birch Island Resort are second to none. You’re going to have to do a few extra casts after lunch just to wear one off, but you won’t hear me complain about that!