Roasted Fish with a Hot, Sour and Sweet Sauce

A striking roasted seabass dish which clashes sweet and sour flavours. The Thai inspired recipe from Rick Stein also works well with sea bream or silver perch.

Introduction

Instead of roasting, as in the recipe here, you could also barbecue or grill the fish, or even deep-fry it, as the Thais love to do, at 1900C for 5-6 minutes until crisp and golden. Whichever you choose, this dish is very simple and completely delicious. Serve it with steamed bok choi and Thai jasmine rice.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 gurnard, sea bass, silver perch or sea bream, each weighing about 300-400g, scaled and trimmed
75ml fish sauce, plus extra if needed
Vegetable oil
50g shallots, thinly sliced
25g garlic, thinly sliced
3 red bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
50g palm sugar
30g piece of seedless tamarind pulp

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Make 3 slashes on either side of each fish and place them in a shallow dish. Pour over the fish sauce and work it into the slashes and the belly cavity. Pour the excess off into a small pan. You should be left with about 50ml but, if not, make up to this amount. Set the fish to one side while you make the sauce.

Heat 1cm oil in a medium-sized frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the sliced shallots and fry them, stirring now and then, until they are crisp and golden. Lift out with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper and leave to drain. Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and golden. Lift out and leave to cool and drain alongside the shallots. Add the sliced chillies and fry for a few seconds until lightly golden. Remove and leave to drain too.

Add the sugar, tamarind pulp and 4 tablespoons water to the small pan containing the fish sauce. Bring to the boil, stirring to break up the tamarind pulp and simmer for about 1 minute until thickened. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, pressing out as much liquid as you can with a wooden spoon. Return to a clean pan and set aside.

Transfer the fish to a lightly oiled roasting tin and roast for 12 minutes or until the flesh at the thickest part, just behind the head, is opaque and comes away from the bones easily. It should register 55°C on a thermal probe (page 315).

Bring the sauce back to a gentle simmer and stir in half the fried shallots, garlic and chilli. Lift the fish onto warmed plates and spoon over some of the sauce. Scatter over the remaining fried shallots, garlic and chilli, and serve.

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