Deep-Fried Leatherjacket with Three-Flavoured Sauce

banner

The reason I like leatherjacket for this classic dish is that it has a really simple bone structure so it’s easy to eat. You could use sole, ocean perch, snapper, or in fact any fish you like. I also like to deep-fry the fish fillets in a light batter and drizzle this sauce over the top.

Ingredients

  • 3 small leatherjackets, scaled and cleaned
  • vegetable oil
  • 90 g ( oz/½ cup) grated palm sugar (jaggery)
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 long red chillies, deep-fried until black and crisp
  • 1 handful of Thai basil leaves, deep-fried until crisp

Paste

  • 4 coriander (cilantro) roots, scraped and chopped
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 3 long red or green chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 red shallots, chopped

Method

To make the paste, pound the coriander roots, sea salt, chillies, garlic and shallots in a mortar with a pestle until you have a fine paste. Or use a blender to process the ingredients, adding a little water if necessary.

Heat a wok until almost smoking. Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil and, when hot, add the paste and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the palm sugar and 2–3 tablespoons water and continue to stir-fry until caramelised. Season with tamarind water and half the fish sauce, then check for balance; the sauce should be sweet, sour, hot and salty.

Toss the leatherjackets with the remaining fish sauce and leave for 10 minutes. Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fryer until just smoking (180°C/350°F), and deep-fry the fish in batches until golden brown and cooked through, then drain on paper towel.

Arrange the fish on a platter and drizzle with the sauce. Crumble the chillies and the basil and sprinkle them over the fish to serve.