Ingredients

For the fish

  • 2 whole fish (also 1 fish works fine, just reduce ingredients)
  • ½ kilo of salt (big grain if possible)
  • 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • About 1 tablespoon of water
  • 4 – 6 stalks lemongrass
  • small handful of kaffir lime leaves

For the sauce seafood

  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 15 cloves of garlic
  • 20 Thai bird chilies (prik kee noo suan)

Watch recipe here…

Instructions

Thai grilled fish (pla pao)

  1. When you buy your whole fish, ask the vendor (or yourself) to do two things: One, try to remove the guts from the gills of the fish, without slicing the fish open on the belly, and two, leave the scales on the fish (if you have the choice).
  2. Probably the first thing you want to do (if you’re using charcoal, which I would recommend), is to get the charcoal going first, so it’s ready when the fish is prepared.
  3. Make sure you rinse your fish with water and then pat them dry with a paper towel.
  4. Take your lemongrass stalks and beat and bruise them with something hard, like a mortar, or a rolling pin or something like that. This is going to bring out the lovely flavor of the lemongrass. Also prepare a small handful of kaffir lime leaves.
  5. Fold the lemongrass in half and begin to stuff the fish with a stalk of lemongrass and about 10 kaffir lime leaves. Depending on how big your fish is will determine how many stalks of lemongrass you can fit. I put 2 – 3 lemongrass stalks in each fish in the video. Make sure it’s tight, but also make sure not to push so hard that you break the flesh of the fish.
  6. In a large mixing bowl or pan add ½ kilo bag of salt, sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour, and add about 1 tablespoon of water. Mix it up thoroughly, massaging the mixture with your hand, until it’s fully mixed. You want the salt to be a little moist so it sticks to the fish easily.
  7. Add the fish to the pan and start plastering it with the salt mixture. Pat and rub the fish with the salt, making sure to cover the entire fish, and all over the head and tail. Do the same to both fish.
  8. For grilling the fish, you want to have a steady, yet quite low heat. Make sure you have a bed of coals, and if they are too hot you can either tone them down with a scoop of ashes, or push the really hot coals to one side of the grill and put the fish on the other side (using a little indirect heat). You can also add more coals as you keep on cooking. You want to slow cook the fish without them burning on the outside. My fish took almost 1 hour to grill. So aim for low heat for slow cooking.
  9. Once your fish is on the grill, it’s time to get started on the seafood sauce (below).
  10. Try to wait for about 15 minutes before you flip the fish. If you flip it too early, when the salt hasn’t dried out completely yet, the fish skin might get stuck onto the griddle. Flip the fish as little as possible.
  11. Keep roasting until the fish feels firm and the white salted skin has turned crusty and golden. It should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  12. Take the fish off the grill, and set it on a platter.
  13. To eat the fish, you can either use a knife or scissors, and from the top of the fish, cut through the skin. The skin should cleanly lift off the fish revealing moist and beautiful meat.
  14. Thai grille fish (pla pao) is delicious with both sticky rice and white rice, and lots of seafood sauce!

Seafood Sauce

  1. Peel about 15 cloves of garlic and grab about 20 Thai bird chilies (prik kee noo suan). Normal Thai chilies will work too. Pound ½ teaspoon of salt, the garlic, and chilies using a mortar and pestle. Doesn’t need to be super fine, but make sure there are no big chunks.
  2. In a bowl, add the pounded garlic and chilies, 6 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice, 3 tablespoons of water, 2.5 tablespoons of fish sauce, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Mix everything together until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Taste the seafood sauce. Really, it’s up to you how it tastes, but you want it to be slightly salty, sour, and slightly sweet.
  4. If you need to add a little more of anything, go for it!
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