While in Australia, I made this recipe while waiting to get back to our boat in Thailand. We were missing Thai food, and one of our favourite dishes is tamarind fish. There are several places in Phuket where we enjoy this fish, so I decided to recreate it to eat at home. It turned out just like the fish at one of our favourite restaurants (which has unfortunately since closed down). It is unfortunate how the COVID-19 virus has hit places that rely on tourism!
1 whole fish (we used barramundi)
6 coriander roots
6 garlic cloves
2 small hot chillies
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup tamarind paste
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Bran oil for deep frying
1/2 cup of plain flour
1/2 cup of rice flour or cornflour
1 long red chilli, sliced
Fried garlic slices (fried and removed before I add the fish to the oil)
Prepare the fish
Scale the fish and then cut a fillet from both sides of the whole fish, leaving plenty of meat still on the frame. Rinse both the fish and frame under running water. Chop the fillets into bite-size chunks.
For the sauce
Pound the coriander, garlic, chilli and salt in a mortar and pestle to a paste. Add 1/2 tablespoon of oil to a wok or pan over medium heat and stir-fry for the paste for a minute to release the fragrance.
Add the ginger and stir-fry for another minute. Add tamarind, sugar and fish sauce and a few tablespoons of water. Mix well and let boil. If the sauce gets too thick, add more water to get the consistency you desire.
Set the sauce aside (you can reheat the sauce when you are ready to serve).
Cook the fish
Heat the bran oil for deep frying.
Mix the plain flour and rice flour with salt and pepper and coat the fish carcass. When the oil is hot, use tongs to submerge the fish in the oil and cook until crisp and golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. Place on a serving dish.
Coat the cubed fish pieces with the flour mixture and cook in the hot oil in batches until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels.
Place the crispy fish cubes on the concave fish frame and drizzle the dressing over the fish and fish cubes. Sprinkle with finely sliced chilli, chopped coriander and some fried garlic. You can serve excess fish on another serving plate.
You can make this recipe with fish fillets instead of a whole fish if you prefer. Just serve the crispy golden chunks of fish on a serving dish, drizzled with tamarind sauce and garnished with chilli, coriander and fried garlic.
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