Crispy fish colo-colo


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

If deep-frying a fish sounds like hard work, grill it instead. The colo-colo sauce makes a spot-on dipping sauce for just about anything fried, battered or grilled that needs a good dunk.


  • 1 large whole fish (fresh water or a sea fish, such as a snapper), scaled and gutted
  • salt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 5 cm piece fresh root ginger, chopped
  • 4 red birdseye chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 4 large mild red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 5 tbsp fish sauce
  • 5 tbsp lime juice
  • vegetable or sunflower oil

To serve

  • 4 spring onions, shredded lengthways
  • handful of mint leaves
  • 1 large mild red chilli, deseeded and finely shredded


Slash the fish through the flesh on both sides with diagonal cuts - five on each side - then rub all over with salt and put on one side. Pound the garlic, ginger and birdseye chillies with about 1 tsp of salt to make a paste. Crush the mild chillies into the paste, leaving them with a little texture. Stir in the sugar, fish sauce and about 2 tbsp water and spoon into a small pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, simmer gently until syrupy, then stir in the lime juice and leave to one side. Heat a deep pool of oil in a wok or pan, then test it with a cube of bread - it should fry and brown gently. Slip the fish into the hot oil (the oil may splash a little) and fry, turning once, until crisp and cooked - 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of your fish. Drain the fish and slip it on to a serving plate, then reheat the sauce and pour it over - and stick a thatch of the greenery and red chilli on top. Eat with rice.