Deep-Fried Fish with Three-Flavored Sauce

2 Serves


  • ¼ cup tamarind pulp

  • ¾ cup warm water

  • 2 tablespoons scraped and chopped cilantro root

  • 2 pinches coarse salt

  • ¼ cup seeded and coarsely chopped fresh long red chiles (about 3)

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying

  • ½ cup palm sugar

  • 6 tablespoons fish sauce

  • ½ cup holy or Thai basil leaves

  • 6 whole dried long red chiles

  • One whole red snapper (1 1/2-pound), skin scored crosswise every 1/2-inch


  1. Place tamarind in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Knead tamarind in water to soften. Pass through a small sieve, discarding solids. Measure 1/4 cup liquid; set aside.

  2. Add to a mortar, one at a time, the cilantro root, salt, chopped fresh chiles, garlic, and shallots, pounding each ingredient with a pestle until smooth before adding the next ingredient.

  3. In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the cilantro paste mixture, and fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in palm sugar and remaining 1/4 cup water; simmer until thick. Add reserved tamarind water and 1/4 cup fish sauce, and continue to simmer until reduced and slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

  4. Meanwhile, place the fish in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Let stand 10 minutes.

  5. Heat 4 inches oil in a large wok over medium-high heat Line a baking sheet with paper towels; set aside. Add whole dried chiles, and fry until crisp, about 30 seconds. Drain on prepared baking sheet; set aside. Add basil leaves and fry until crisp, about 15 seconds. Drain on prepared baking sheet; set aside.

  6. Carefully add fish to hot oil. Fry until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, let drain. Transfer to a serving platter. Coat the fish with the reserved sauce. Crush the fried chiles over the fish, and garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

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