Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Cook Pan-Fried Fish with Thai Lemon-Herb Sauce

This pan-fried fish recipe is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and easy to make. The fish is lightly seared in a hot pan with a little oil for 5-8 minutes, then topped with a simple no-cook lemon-herb Thai sauce that really compliments the flavor of the fish and lets its tenderness shine through. Wonderful with rice, but equally good with potatoes, this easy fish recipe makes a great meal and is simple enough to fry up any night of the week. ENJOY!

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 23 minutes


  • SERVES 2-3
  • 2-3 white-fleshed fish steaks or fillets, such as halibut, cod, tilapia, trout, etc...
  • handful of fresh sweet basil leaves
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. oil for frying
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil OR olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2+1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce (available in tall bottles at Asian/Chinese food stores)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh coriander leaves and stems, chopped
  • 2 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • 1 red chili, minced, OR 3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, OR for mild fish substitute 2-3 Tbsp. minced red bell pepper
  • 1+1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut milk or coconut cream


  1. Place all lemon-herb sauce ingredients together in a sauce pan. Stir together and set aside.
  2. Rinse fish and pat dry. Then, using a paper towel or clean tea towel, pat the fish on both sides, absorbing any remaining moisture. (This is the secret to getting a good sear.)
  3. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add the oil and swirl around. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish in pan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Do not move the fish once you have placed it in the pan or the flesh will tear. Cover and allow fish to fry undisturbed for at least 2 minutes before turning. If pan is smoking, reduce heat to medium-low.
  5. Turn the fish, but again, don't move it around - allow it to fry undisturbed for another 2 minutes with the cover on. Lightly season the second side with salt and pepper.
  6. Fish is cooked when the inner flesh is opaque when gently pulled apart with a fork. One inch thickness will take roughly 5-6 minutes. (The halibut steaks shown here took 8 minutes)
  7. Place lemon-herb sauce over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until warm. (Don't boil the sauce or it will lose its fresh flavor and nutrients.)
  8. Before serving, taste-test the sauce. Note that this sauce tends toward the sour side; however, feel free to sweeten it with a little more sugar if it's too sour for you. If it's too spicy, add a little more coconut milk. If not salty enough, add more fish sauce. If too salty, add another squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
  9. To serve, place the fish fillets or steaks on individual plates. Spoon the sauce over and serve any extra on the side. Sprinkle with sweet basil leaves. This fish goes well with rice, but is also delicious with potatoes. ENJOY!
Optional Serving Suggestion: In Thailand, this kind of fish would be served with the following simple condiment: 3-4 Tbsp. soy sauce mixed with 1 fresh red chili (minced).

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