• Woodfired sturgeon with Sapa botanicals (Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam)Source: Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam

Fresh fish grilled over a fire pit gives a beautiful smoky flavour that adds to the spice rub.






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  • 1 whole sturgeon (scored on both sides)
  • 1.5 metre-long thin bamboo stick (sharpened on both ends)
  • steamed rice, to serve

Spice rub

  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
  • 2 black cardamom pods, toasted
  • 1 tsp mac khen (wild forest pepper), toasted 
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 red Asian shallots, sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, pale part only, sliced
  • 2 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cm piece green turmeric, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cm piece regular turmeric
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) extra virgin olive oil

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. Create a fire pit by burning some wood or charcoal. Allow the fire to burn for 20-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, for the spice rub, place all the ingredients in a mortar and pound into a coarse powder.

3. For the paste, place all the ingredients except the fish sauce and oil in a mortar and pound into a paste. Add the fish sauce and oil and stir to combine well.

4. Combine the spice rub and paste in a bowl to create a nice wet rub for the fish. 

5. Make deep diagonal slashes along both sides of the fish to help it cook more evenly. Lightly coat the fish with some of the wet rub, then stuff the fish cavity with half the remaining wet rub. Thread the fish with the bamboo stick starting from the mouth then through to its tail. Stick one end of the bamboo stick into the ground making sure the fish is leaning over the fire. Cook on both sides for 20 minutes, basting with the remaining wet rub every 5 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.


Catch Luke Nguyen on the tracks dishing up Vietnamese fare in the brand-new series, Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam.