Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    3

    as a Main Course, 5 As an Appetizer

Appears in

This dish is ideal for those who don’t like dealing with fish bones. It comes to the table aromatic with lemongrass and ginger. Be sure not to taste for seasoning until after you have added the lime juice; it brings all the flavors together. Serve as a main course, with a salad or a vegetable side, or as an appetizer.

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Ingredients

  • One 1¾- to 2-pound whole snapper or other firm-textured fish, such as lake perch or trout, cleaned, scaled, and head cut off, or pounds halibut steaks
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and minced
  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Fried Shallots
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 1 or 2 limes, cut into wedges

Method

Rinse the fish. Put about ¾ inch water in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add teaspoon of the turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt and slide the fish into the water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Turn the fish over after 3 minutes (2 minutes if using steaks) and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until it is just barely cooked through. Flake with a fork to test for doneness; the flesh should be opaque.

Remove the fish to a platter and let cool for a few minutes. (Set the broth aside for another purpose.) Lift the flesh off the bones and pull it into smaller flakes or pieces; discard the skin and bones.

If you have a mortar, pound the shallots, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass to a paste; set aside. Alternatively, put them in a miniprocessor and process.

Place a wide heavy skillet or a wok over medium heat. Add the oil, then stir in the remaining teaspoon turmeric. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fish and stir to break it into smaller pieces and to combine it with the oil and flavorings, then add the fish sauce and stir. Cook for several minutes, until the fish is lightly touched with gold.

Transfer to a shallow serving bowl, add the fried shallots, and toss. Add the lime juice and toss again, then taste; add a little salt if you wish. Put out the lime wedges so guests can squeeze on extra lime juice.

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