• Salt-crusted baked fish (Pla pao) (Andrew Dorn)Source: Andrew Dorn

These decorative little wraps are just as much suited for a light solo meal as they are a snack for entertaining.  






Skill level

Average: 4.8 (3 votes)


  • 1 kg-1.5 kg whole snapper (see note)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • ½ bunch dill
  • 4 makrut lime leaves
  • 315 g (1 cup) rock salt
  • 200 g dried bun (rice vermicelli) noodles

Dipping sauce

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 45 g (¼ cup) grated palm sugar
  • 6 green scud chillies
  • pinch salt
  • 100 ml fish sauce
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 bunch coriander, cleaned well and chopped

To serve

  • 2 small heads butter lettuce or baby cos, leaves separated
  • 1 small bunch each of mint, Vietnamese mint, fish mint, shiso, sawtooth coriander
  • ½ small pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into fingers

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.


1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

2. Place the snapper on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Scrunch up the lemongrass, dill and makrut lime leaves and fill the belly of the fish with the herbs through the space in the gills.

3. Place the rock salt in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water and stir to combine. Cover both sides of the fish with the salt mix, pressing well to help it stay on and create a seal during cooking. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked. The salt should form a hard crust protecting the flesh while it cooks.

4. Meanwhile, drop the noodles into a saucepan of boiling water and bring back to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave for another 5 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, then leave to drain until serving.

5. For the dressing, in a mortar a pestle, pound the garlic, palm sugar, chillies and salt into a rough paste. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, coriander and 2 tablespoons of water. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary- it should be a balance of hot, sweet, sour and salty.

6. To serve, transfer the fish to a serving plate and carefully peel the crust back, exposing the flesh. Serve with the salad and noodles on the table for people to help themselves. To assemble, grab a lettuce leaf and fill with bun noodles, herbs, pineapple and fish, then dip in the sauce.

When buying the fish ask the fishmonger to leave the scale and when removing the guts ask them not to cut the belly open but instead pull the organs through the gills.


Diana Chan and guests explore the flavours of Asia from her Melbourne home in the second series of Asia Unplated.