How to Cook Thai Whole Grilled or Fried Fish Recipe
This classic Thai fish is very flexible - it can either be grilled outdoors or fried on your stovetop (instructions included), and you can use nearly any type of fish. In Thailand, small to medium whole fish are used for this dish, so I chose a few rainbow trout, which turned out perfectly - the taste was just as I remember it from the beaches of Thailand. Simply marinate the fish in fish sauce, then quickly fry up or barbecue. Pour a special Thai sauce overtop, and serve immediately. Delicious!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
2 small to medium-size whole rainbow trout, cleaned OR other type of whole fish, such as snapper
marinade: 2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce per fish (=4 Tbsp. for 2 small-medium whole fish)
3 Tbsp. sherry
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup coriander stems and leaves
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 to 1 fresh red chili (or substitute green chili), minced (OR 1-3 tsp. chili sauce)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. tamarind paste (available by the jar at Indian food stores, or in the Indian aisle of grocery stores)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
If Frying the Fish Indoors: 1-2 cups oil for deep-frying (depending on your pan), and 1/2 cup flour
GARNISH: 1 handful of fresh coriander, plus cut slices of cucumber and tomato
Rinse the fish and pat dry. Place on a cutting board. Using a sharp, serrated knife, and holding the fish firmly in front of you, make 3-4 cuts on each side of the fish. This allows the marinade and sauce to penetrate, and also makes the fish easier to eat once cooked. (For an example, see cuts in the photo of the finished dish on this page)
Pour fish sauce marinade over the fish, roughly 1 Tbsp. of fish sauce per side. Allow fish sit 5-10 minutes before cooking.
To make the sauce, place mix all sauce ingredients together in a sauce pan. Place over medium heat. When you add the cornstarch (dissolved in water), the sauce will thicken slightly.
Taste-test the sauce. What you want is a balance of flavors - sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Add more sugar if too sour, and more fish sauce if not salty enough. If not spicy enough, add more fresh chili or chili sauce. If too spicy, not to worry - once the sauce is poured over the fish, it will be less hot.
Keep sauce on minimum heat until fish is done cooking, or cover and keep warm.
If Grilling: Place marinated fish on a hot, lightly oiled grill. Allow to cook for at least 5 minutes before attempting to turn or move the fish, or the skin will tear.
After 5-8 minutes, using tongs, gently lift and turn the fish. Again, allow it to cook for at least 5 minutes before attempting to move or turn it.
Fish is done when inner flesh (look inside the cuts you made) is no longer pink or translucent, but has turned white and opaque. Thicker or larger fish may need extra grilling time.
If Frying the Fish: Dredge fish with flour to coat (regular white flour or rice flour can be used). Pour 1-2 cups canola (or other low-smoke oil) into a wok or large frying pan. The oil should be at least 1 inch deep.
Heat oil over medium-high heat until you see bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan (or the oil begins to "snake" slightly along the bottom of the pan).Frying Tip: If you're unsure whether oil is hot enough, simply drop in a small cube of bread. If it sizzles and cooks, it's ready. If the oil "pop" or smacks, it's too hot (reduce heat to medium).
Carefully slide or place fish in the oil, standing back in case the oil splatters. Turn down the heat to medium. Allow the fish to fry undisturbed (without moving it or turning it) for at least 3 minutes, or skin will come off.
Fry the fish 3-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness of fish), or until outer skin/flesh has turned a light golden-brown and flesh inside the cuts has turned white and opaque.
TO SERVE: Place cooked fish on a serving platter and pour the sauce over. Add a sprinkling of fresh coriander, and garnish the plate with slices of cucumber and tomato. Serve with plenty of Thai jasmine-scented rice. ENJOY!