Words fail me! After a week of trying to cook fish (none of which made the final cut for the blog!) I gave it a final try tonight with this Vietnamese dish. Thank god I gave it another night. This was sublime – I kid you not, it was superb. The marinade for the fish is splendid – a peppery, spicy dream come true. It was amazing – I chose a whole snapper from the supermarket – it was cheaper than meat which is quite something, and it really delivered in taste, texture and freshness. There was very little I could find with this meal that I didn’t like. The only thing would be that it took too long to get to the table, and the fact that I couldn’t finish the whole thing (Which is a very rare event in itself!). Give it a try – you won’t be disappointed!
1kg whole fish (snapper etc) (gutted and cleaned)
1 tablespoon dried green peppercorns
1 red Thai chilli (chopped, with seeds)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 small carrot (very thinly julienned)
4 spring onions (very thinly julienned)
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 garlic clove (very finely chopped)
1 red Thai chilli (very finely chopped, seeds removed)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 large onion (sliced)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4cm piece fresh ginger (very thinly julienned)
3 garlic cloves (very thinly sliced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Deeply score the fish on each side in a diamond pattern.
Add the peppercorns and chilli to a pestle and mortar and pound into a fine paste. Add the fish sauce and marinade peanut oil and stir till well combined. Brush this paste into the fish, both sides and in the cavity. Leave, covered, for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Wrap the fish in foil and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the flesh pulls away from the skin and is fully cooked through.
Meanwhile, Mix together the sugar, lime juice, garlic, chilli and fish sauce to make the dressing/dipping sauce. Combine the carrot, spring onion and coriander Toss in 2 tablespoons of the dressing and set aside. Pour the remaining dressing into a small bowl to serve alongside the fish.
Heat a large frying pan with the peanut oil over a medium/high heat and cook the onions till browned and slightly charred on the outside (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain on paper towels.
When the fish is cooked, place on a large platter and spoon over the onions. Sprinkle with a handful of the carrot and spring onions, serving the rest as a side salad. Serve immediately.
I served mine with the remaining, carrot & spring onion salad, a simple pickled cucumber, carrot and tomato salad, the dipping sauce and some Jasmine rice.