• Crisp skin red fish on wilted gai lan with hot and sour tamarind sauce and fried basil leaves (Petrina Tinslay)Source: Petrina Tinslay

Substitute the red fish fillet with any white fish fillets with skin on. It also looks fantastic if you serve the sauce over a whole fish, such as bream.






Skill level

Average: 3.5 (11 votes)


  • ¼ cup peanut oil
  • 8 purple shallots, peeled and finely sliced
  • ½ cup Thai basil leaves, rinsed and well dried
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 small red chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 cup tamarind liquid
  • ½ cup shaved palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp salt flakes
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 4 x 200 g red fish (nannygai) fillets, skin on
  • 2 tbsp extra peanut oil
  • 1 bunch gai lan (Chinese broccoli), rinsed and trimmed

Tamarind liquid

  • 100 g tamarind pulp
  • 2 cups hot water

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Tamarind liquid makes 2½ cups

To make the tamarind liquid, roughly chop the tamarind and place in a medium bowl, pour over the hot water and allow to stand for 10 minutes or until the water has cooled enough for you to put your hands in.

Knead the tamarind to remove the pulp from the seeds and fibres. Strain and use as required. Left over liquid may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Heat peanut oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the shallots until browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon remove the shallots and drain on paper towel. In the same oil fry the basil leaves a few at a time. Be careful to dry them well, any water on the leaves will cause the oil to spit. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

Using the same oil, sauté the garlic, chilli and ginger for 1–2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tamarind liquid, palm sugar and fish sauce and simmer over a low heat for approximately 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, keep warm.

Crush the salt flakes and Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. Dry the skin of the fish fillets and rub the salt mix onto the skin. Heat extra oil in a large frying pan and cook the snapper skin side down for 2–3 minutes, turn and cook the other side for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm, uncovered in a low oven.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and plunge the gai lan into the water, cook for 1–2 minutes until bright green. Be careful not to overcook, drain well.

Divide the gai lan between 4 serving plates and top with a piece of fish. Spoon over sauce and sprinkle with fried shallots and basil leaves. Serve immediately.


the food dept. fact
• Substitute the red fish fillet with any white fish fillets with skin on. It also looks fantastic if you serve the sauce over a whole fish (bream works well). Score the flesh of a plate-size fish, rub the skin with flour that has been seasoned with salt and sichuan pepper, deep fry until crispy and golden, serve with sauce.


Photography by Petrina Tinslay, styling by David Morgan and art direction by Anne Marie Cummins.