Thai people love to eat fish whole! You'll often spot these salt crusted fish being sold on the streets of Thailand, and here's a recipe that shows you how you can recreate it at home. The salt helps retain the moisture in the fish which makes the fish so incredibly juicy!! Along with the wonderful aroma of Thai herbs, this is the perfect fish for any holiday table.
This method works with any kind of fish you like, as long as they're not too small, otherwise it can become too salty. I'm using ocean perch in this video.
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- 1 whole white fish, at least 2 lb, gutted (see note)
- 8 rounds galangal
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bottom half only, smashed and cut into chunks
- 5 Kaffir lime leaves
- 10 inches pandan leaves
- 5 cloves garlic
- About ¼ - ½ cup of kosher salt
Note: Traditionally the scale is left on the fish, but I like to remove the scale. There are pros and cons so you can decide for yourself: With the scale on, your fish won't absorb much of the salt, which is great if you don't like salty foods, and peeling the skin will be much easier. Without the scale, the salt will penetrate and season the flesh all the way through, which I prefer personally, but this requires that the fish is served with plain rice. If you want to have the fish on its own, I would suggest leaving the scales on. How salty the fish ends up becoming will also depend on how thin the fish skin is.
- 3-4 dried chilies, to taste
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp palm sugar, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp roasted peanuts, unsalted
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp tamarind juice
- 2 Tbsp Fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped mint
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Add all the herbs to a food processor and process just until they're coarsely chopped. Stuff the herbs into the cavity of the fish.
Rub a thin layer of salt onto the fish; the body should be thoroughly coated but the salt should be thin enough that you can still see through to the skin. Place the fish onto a baking sheet lined with a rack (I didn't do this in the video because I didn't have a rack big enough, but if you have one it'll be better.) Otherwise line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the fish is fully cooked. To test doneness, you can use a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish, and even though government guidelines say you should cook it to 145°F, I like to take it out once it reaches 135°F and let the residual heat do the rest of the cooking. If you're serving seniors, young children or pregnant women though, stick with the government guidelines!
Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Place the dried chilies in the oven along with the fish and let it toast for 3-4 minutes until they darken and are crispy. You can also toast them in a dry saute pan over medium heat. Place them in a mortar and pestle and pound into flakes (if you want less spicy, remove the seeds first.)
Add garlic and pound into a paste. Add palm sugar and pound until dissolved. Add peanuts and pound until they are a coarse meal. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to mix.
When the fish is done, brush off the excess salt from the fish and transfer onto a serving plate. Peel off the skin and serve with jasmine rice and dipping sauce. Enjoy!