Thai Fried Fish with Tamarind Sauce


I’ve been back to Penang for only a couple of days but last night over a couple of drinks, mum had hinted perhaps it’s time for me to make my fried fish with tamarind sauce Thai-style. Before I could say yes, mum then went on gushing excitedly about the fish market in Negombo, a city in Sri Lanka that we were at 2 weeks ago. I have to admit; Sri Lanka was absolutely stunning and amazing – there will be a write up about Sri Lanka after this recipe post!

Back to this recipe, tamarind pulp is used here to give the fish a refreshing tangy flavour and of course, lots of (you can adjust the spiciness) bird’s eye chilies to round the recipe with a Thai kick. Just like most Thai dishes, this recipe is usually served with rice accompanied with vegetables. But if you would like to enjoy this dish without rice? Get yourself a glass of Mojito. I bet that was what triggered my mum to request for this recipe because I rejected her coffee offer last night for my very own Mojito. With lemongrass and ginger. Delish.

Level: Easy

1 whole seabass (or any white fish), cleaned & gutted

Peanut/palm oil

2 tablespoons of flour

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

6 small shallots, peeled

A handful of bird’s eye chilies

1 ½ of palm sugar or brown sugar

Fish sauce

½ cup of tamarind paste/tamarind pulp with hot water

To garnish:

A few sprigs or coriander

1 red chili, sliced


Cabbage, shredded

Lime wedges

Using pestle and mortar, pound the garlic and shallots. Then add the bird eye’s chilies and continue to pound. Be careful not to pound it into a paste. Set aside. If using tamarind pulp and hot water, strain and set aside.

Make 3 to 4 deep slices on both sides of the fish. Rub with salt and sprinkle with flour all over. On a wok/pan over a medium heat, deep fry the fish until golden brown. To deep fry, make sure that the oil is enough to submerge at least two thirds of the length of the fish. Also, oil should be heated very hot before putting in the fish to the wok. Cook until it is golden brown. Remove the fish and set aside on a rack or a plate.

Using the same wok/pan, remove the oil leaving only about 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the garlic, shallots and chilies until fragrant on a medium heat. Keep stirring to prevent from burning. When it is fragrant, add the tamarind paste, palm sugar and fish sauce. Cook for 1 t0 2 minutes. Season to taste. The sauce should be thick (not too saucy), tangy and slightly sweet. Now, pour the sauce over the fish and garnish with coriander and chili. Limes are not necessary in this recipe but my mum loves to give the dish a fresh punch. Feel free to use it if you like.