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Whole Fried Fish with Thai Tamarind Glaze

Crispy whole fish, Thai-inspired tamarind soy ginger glaze, and aromatic jasmine rice. Serves 4 medium-sized fish in about 40 minutes.

*Note: This recipe may require you to make a trip to your local Asian market. Which is honestly a treat for me!

When I was a kid, my parents would often order fresh whole fried tilapia from the 99 Ranch Market down the street. I loved the contrast of the crunchy skin and the soft tender meat. We picked the flesh from the bones with our hands and dipped it vinegar and bagoong, a salty fermented shrimp paste.

Unfortunately, there's no 99 Ranch near my new home. So I googled some recipes and put this together. The trout crisps well and tastes cleaner (imo) than tilapia. And this ginger tamarind glaze is bursting with tangy, sweet, and umami flavor. Feel free to sub the trout with snapper, tilapia, or sea bass. Remember to adjust frying times according to size.


For the fish:

  1. 4 medium-sized whole trout, cleaned and gutted (you can also use tilapia or snapper). Here is a guide to finding good quality whole fish.

  2. 1/4 cup of cornstarch

  3. 3/4 cup of rice flour (AP flour ok, too)

  4. 2 teaspoons salt

  5. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  6. 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

  7. 3-4 cups neutral oil, enough to cover the fish while frying

For the sauce & garnish:

  1. 1/4 cup tamarind paste (I use Nuoc Me Chua brand)

  2. 1/4 cup soy sauce

  3. 1/4 cup water

  4. 1/4 cup honey

  5. 1/2 stalk lemongrass, cut into 1 inch chunks (optional but

  6. 1 tbsp sambal oelek (sriracha works, too. Add less if you don't like spicy)

  7. 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  8. 1 knobs of ginger, sliced thinly

  9. 1 shallot, sliced thinly

  10. 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

  11. 3 stalks green onion, sliced thinly

  12. 6 Thai bird chilies, sliced thinly


  1. Prepare the tamarind soy ginger glaze. Sauté the ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and shallots for about 2-3 minutes or until the shallots become translucent.

  2. Whisk in the tamarind paste, soy sauce, water, sugar, and fish sauce and bring to a strong simmer. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to reduce for 4-6 minutes. The final product should be thick and syrupy. Remove the lemongrass stalks.

  3. Prepare the fish. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel. I cut the heads off of mine just so they would fit in my dutch oven more easily, but feel free to leave them on. Score the mid section of the fish three times to the bone.

  4. In a deep casserole dish that will fit the length of fish, whisk together the cornstarch, rice flour, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper. Dredge each fish, making sure the insides and scores are coated evenly.

  5. Use a heavy bottomed pot to heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  6. Fry the fish in batches. Do NOT place them all in at once or skin will not properly crisp. If your pot is big enough, you can try two at a time. Fry each fish for 4 minutes on each side.

  7. Carefully take each fish out of the pot, allowing excess oil to drip out before placing on a rack or paper-towel lined plate.

  8. Drizzle the tamarind soy glaze on the fish, garnish with the chilies and green onion. Serve immediately with jasmine rice. Keep the extra sauce handy. You'll want more as you dig into the fish.


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