- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 2-3 Cilantro roots, chopped
- 1/4 tsp white peppercorns
- 2-3 Prik Chee fah (spur chilies), diced, or sub another type of mild, red chili peppers
- 1-2 Thai chilies, to taste
- 3 Tbsp chopped palm sugar
- 1.5 Tbsp fish sauce
- ~2.5 Tbsp tamarind juice*
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 300 grams of any white fish filet
- Vegetable or canola oil for frying
* Every brand of tamarind juice has different levels of acidity, so the measurement I give serves only as an estimate. Whenever you cook with tamarind juice, it is very important to taste and adjust the final product.
Make the sauce: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cilantro roots, garlic, and white pepper until it's resembles a rough paste. Add the spur chilies and Thai chilies and pound until it also resembles a rough paste.
In a saute pan, over medium heat, cook the chili mixture in some vegetable oil, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to dry up and is very fragrant, add the palm sugar. When the palm sugar starts to melt, add water, fish sauce and tamarind juice. Stir and let simmer for 1-2 minutes until you achieve a thick, syrupy consistency. Taste and adjust to your liking. Set aside. If you want to prep this dish in advanced, you can refrigerate the sauce at this point and reheat it when you're ready to serve.
Panfry the fish: In a frying pan, add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan and heat over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, place the fish presentation side down. You should hear a good sizzle as soon as the fish touches the pan, if the sizzle is gentle, the pan is not hot enough. You can always just touch the pan with the end of the fish to test the sizzle before putting the whole filet down.
When the fish is half way done, flip the fish and cook the other half. The second side should take half the time it took the first side. Alternatively, when pan frying a thick piece of fish, you can finish the fish in a 350F oven after you flip it, but Thai people generally don't cook with ovens, so I usually just finish it on the stove.
If you want to deep fry a whole fish: Traditionally we deep fry a whole fish for this dish. So if you want, you can use a fish that's about 1-1.5 lb in weight - a tilapia or a grouper is commonly used. Score the thickest part of the fish a couple of times on each side and pat it very very dry. Heat some frying oil in a wok or a deep fryer, and when the oil temperature reaches 350 F, slide the fish gently down and let it fry until crispy, flip it half way through!
To assemble: Place the fish on a serving plate. Reheat the sauce, when the sauce comes back to a boil, turn the heat off and add the chopped cilantro and stir to mix. At this point you can add a bit of water to loosen if it has thickened too much while it was sitting. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the sauce over the fish, and pour the rest around the fish. Garnish with cilantro sprig or sliced spur chilies. Serve with jasmine rice!