Crispy Red Snapper with Green Papaya Salad

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Whole fried fish is a foodie highlight when travelling in Thailand. It’s served propped up with skewers and you pluck off the flesh and dip it in a tamarind or lime chilli dressing. For home cooking, this extravaganza isn’t so practical, but you can achieve the same deliciousness using fillets. A green papaya or carrot salad served alongside keeps textures lively and contrasts nicely with the hot, crisp fish.

Prep 15 minutes
Cook 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 50 g 2 oz) basmati rice
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 4 thick firm white fish fillets (150 g/ oz each)
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Citrus Dressing

  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cm (½ inch) ginger
  • 2 tbsp palm or soft brown sugar
  • 45 ml ( fl oz) fish sauce
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) lime juice
  • 60 ml 2 fl oz) orange juice

Green Papaya Salad

  • 300 g (10½ oz) green papaya or cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 4 Thai shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 lime leaves, shredded (optional)
  • 1 small handful each coriander (cilantro), Thai basil and mint leaves, plus extra
  • 4 tbsp crispy fried shallots
  • 2–3 small Thai red chillies, sliced

Method

In a dry frying pan over low heat, slowly brown the rice for about 10 minutes until it is light brown. Place in a mortar and pestle or blender and finely grind. Pour into a shallow tray. Remove 2 tablespoons and mix in a bowl with the cornflour and chilli flakes and season with sea salt and black pepper.

To make the citrus dressing, in a mortar and pestle pound the garlic and ginger. Add the sugar, fish sauce and citrus juices until the sugar is dissolved. Taste for additional sugar or fish sauce – it should be sour, salty and somewhat sweet. Set aside for serving.

Place the green papaya salad ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Using a sharp knife, score a diamond pattern into the skin side of the fillets. Toss each one in the chilli flour and shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a wok or deep medium saucepan until it reaches 180–190°C (350–375°F) or when a small piece of bread instantly sizzles. Fry the fillets for about 2–3 minutes until golden and crisp.

Pour two-thirds of the dressing over the salad and toss well. Arrange on plates and top with the fish. Pour the remaining dressing over the top and sprinkle with the ground rice and extra herbs.