Whole Fish with Sweet-and-sour Sauce


serves 4
1 whole fish, such as red snapper or carp, about 1 kg (2 1/4 lb)
30 - 45 ml (2 - 3 tbsp) cornflour
oil for frying
salt and freshly ground black pepper
boiled rice, to serve

for the spice paste

2 garlic cloves
2 lemon grass stems
2.5 cm (1 in) fresh lengkuas
2.5 cm (1 in) fresh root ginger
2 cm (3/4 in fresh turmeric or 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) ground turmeric
5 macadamia nuts or 10 almonds

for the sauce

15 ml (1 tbsp) brown sugar
45 ml (3 tbsp) cider vinegar
about 350 ml (12 fl oz) 1 1/2 cups water
2 lime leaves, torn
4 shallots, quartered
3 tomatoes, skinned and cut in wedges
3 spring onions, finely shredded
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and shredded


1. Ask the fishmonger to gut and scale the fish, leaving on the head and tail, or you may do this yourself. Wash and dry the fish thoroughly and then sprinkle it inside and out with salt. Set aside for 15 minutes, while preparing the other ingredients.

2. Peel and crush the garlic cloves. Use only the lower white part of the lemon grass stems and slice thinly. Peel and slice the fresh lengkuas, the fresh root ginger and fresh turmeric, if using. Grind the nuts, garlic, lemon grass, lengkuas, ginger and turmeric to a fine paste in a food processor or with a pestle and mortar.

3. Scrape the paste into a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, cider vinegar, seasoning to taste and the water. Add the lime leaves.

4. Dust the fish with the cornflour and fry on both sides in hot oil for about 8 - 9 minutes or until almost cooked through. Drain the fish on kitchen paper and transfer to a serving dish. Keep warm.

5. Pour off most of the oil and then pour in the spicy liquid and allow to come to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. Add the shallots and tomatoes, followed a minute later by the spring onions and chilli. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

6. Pour the sauce over the fish. Serve at once, with plenty of rice.

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