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Nori-Dusted Flounder Bundles

5 sheets Japanese nori
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground white pepper

For the Dish:
1 whole flounder or sole - (2 1/2 lbs) -- cleaned (or 1 lb skinless flounder or sole fillets)
2 tablespoon flour -- dissolved in
1 tablespoon water -- to make a paste
Vegetable oil -- for deep-frying

Crumble the nori and place the pieces in an electric spice grinder. Grind to a powder. Turn the powder out onto a plate and stir together with the five-spice powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.

For the Dish: If using the whole fish, remove the fillets from both sides of the fish. (Or ask your fishmonger to remove the fillets for you.) Reserve the fish frame. Remove the skin from each fillet.

Rinse the fillets under cold water and pat them dry with paper towels. Cut each fillet crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces of equal length. If any of the fillet pieces are more than 1/4 inch thick, cut them in half horizontally to make slices of more or less equal thickness.

Place the fillet pieces, skinned-side up, on a work surface. Roll each piece into a compact roll, sealing the end of the roll with a little of the flour paste. Dredge the rolls in the seasonings to coat them lightly.

Pour enough oil into a wok to fill 3 inches. Heat over medium heat to 350 degrees. Dust the fish frame with cornstarch to coat it lightly. Using a large slotted spoon or wire basket, press the carcass against the curved bottom of the wok to make a bowl shape. Deep-fry until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the temperature of the oil constant. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon, so the bones retain their bowl shape and drain on paper towels. Make sure the temperature of the oil remains at 350 degrees. Deep-fry the fish bundles, a few at a time, turning them carefully, until the flesh is opaque and the edges are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining fish bundles.

Mound the fish in the fish "bowl" and serve with your favorite dipping sauce, such as Spicy Ginger Soy Sauce or hot mustard.

This recipe yields 4 servings.

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