"Tilapia lives in freshwater ecosystems and is found in great abundance in the Mekong River. It has a mild buttery flavour, is high in protein, has five times less fat than lean pork or beef, and has very firm skin, which makes it ideal for chargrilling. This dish is found grilling throughout the streets and markets of Bangkok. After stuffing the fish and coating it in salt, local cooks tie the fish between two bamboo sticks before placing it on the chargrill. This keeps the fish enclosed, and also makes it easier to turn over." Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's Street Food Asia
- 4 lemongrass stalks, white part only, chopped
- 1 large handful dill, chopped
- 2 spring onions (scallions), sliced
- 800 g whole black tilapia or barramundi, gutted and cleaned, left unscaled
- 35 g sea salt, for coating
- steamed jasmine rice, to serve
Tamarind dipping sauce
- 125 ml (½ cup) tamarind water (see Note)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- ½ tsp pounded fresh galangal
- ½ tsp pounded garlic
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp finely sliced coriander
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.
Soak a bamboo skewer in cold water for 30 minutes.
To make the tamarind dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl, then set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine the lemongrass, dill and spring onion. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the fish, then secure the opening using the bamboo skewer. Now rub the whole fish with all the sea salt, coating it well.
Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue chargrill plate to medium-high. Chargrill the fish for 10–15 minutes on each side or until cooked through – the scales and skin should peel off easily.
Before serving the fish at the table, peel away and discard the scales and skin. Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice and the tamarind dipping sauce.
• To make the tamarind water, soak 50 g tamarind pulp in 200 ml boiling water, breaking it up a little with a whisk, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using your hands, work the mixture into a thick paste, then push the mixture through a sieve, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. The tamarind water can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Tammi Kwok.