RECIPES / Deep-fried fish served with chilies in fish sauce

Deep-fried fish served with chilies in fish sauce

Deep-fried fish served with chilies in fish sauce (Pla tod)

Serves 4 as part of a shared meal with other dishes, but alone is sufficient for one.

A whole grouper is the most likely candidate for frying in Thailand. However, any saltwater fish can be used, such as red emperor, snapper, dory, leatherjacket or barramundi. Marinating the fish, whole or filleted, in fish sauce and sugar for several minutes before it is deep-fried gives it a wonderful saltiness and richness.

A bowl of chilies steeped in fish sauce is always on the Thai table, ready to be used on all occasions, much like salt and pepper. Try to find the small green Thai chilies known as bird’s eye chilies – scuds, I affectionately call them. They have a wonderful taste and aroma and are hot, decidedly hot, but without them this dish is just not right. As with most Thai dishes, this should be eaten with steamed jasmine rice.


  • 1 x 400 g whole fish, such as grouper, snapper, or sea bream, cleaned and scaled or about 250 g fish fillets
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 3–4 tablespoons Megachef fish sauce
  • Pinch of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

Chili in fish sauce

  • 5–10 bird’s eye chilies, sliced
  • 1 red shallot, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3–4 tablespoons Megachef fish sauce
  • Good squeeze of lime juice – optional


To make the chilies in fish sauce, place the chilies, shallot and garlic (if using) in a bowl and pour over the fish sauce. Leave to steep – the longer, the better, as the heat becomes quite mellow with time. If using the lime juice, squeeze it in just before serving.

Rinse the fish then pat it dry with paper towel. Score the fish by making several diagonal cuts into each side, going almost to the bone. I like to score quite finely, others don’t – it’s up to you.

Pour the deep-frying oil into a large, stable wok or a wide, heavy-based pan until it is about two-thirds full. Heat the oil over a medium–¬high flame until a cooking thermometer registers 180°C Alternatively, test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a cube of bread – it will brown in about 15 seconds if the oil is hot enough

Meanwhile, marinate the fish in the fish sauce and sugar for about 5 minutes (fillets will need less time ¬– just a minute or two), turning it once or twice.

When the oil is ready, shake off the excess fish sauce and deep-fry the fish, carefully turning it once or twice to ensure even colouring and cooking. Depending on the size and thickness of the fish, it can take as long as 10 minutes, but be careful not to burn the fish as it takes on a deep golden colour.

Once cooked, remove the fish from the oil and drain on paper towel. Place on a plate and sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Serve with steamed rice and a bowl of the chilies in fish sauce.

By Mr. David Thomson

06 May 2019 03:21PM
( Updated: 07 May 2019 10:08 PM )

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