Thai Chili-Lime Fish (Pla Prik Manau) can be super-hot
The hottest authentic dish I’ve ever encountered was in Thailand, where fried fish showed up coated thickly with what looked like chopped raw green chilies.
The traditional fish for this would have been a white-fleshed ocean fish (I love grouper), but nowadays salmon shows up everywhere, and aside from the color seem just like delicious Thai fish. Once, in a hurry, I cheated and put the sauce over baked supermarket crunchy fish fingers -- with relative success.
The recipe makes enough for six. Accompany this with unsalted white rice, preferably jasmine rice, and a stir-fried vegetable dish. A cold white wine with faint sweetness goes particularly well with the dish.
Prepare the sauce before cooking the fish:
3 large green or red jalapeño peppers (use fewer, or remove part of seeds for milder sauce)
5 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed and including a bit of stem
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, plus to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce, plus to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, plus to taste
Cut stems off peppers and peel garlic. Mince peppers (including seeds and membranes for authenticity) and garlic finely on cutting board with chef’s knife or pulse them till finely minced, but not pureed, in food processor. (Be careful handling the chilies, or wear a plastic glove.)
Place minced pepper and garlic in bowl. Chop, but do not mince, cilantro, and add it to mixture. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Taste (it’s hot) and add lime juice, fish sauce (for salt) and/or sugar to taste. Let sauce rest, stirring occasionally, at least half an hour.
6 servings fish, such as grouper or tilapia (thawed just before cooking, if frozen), or salmon
Salt for fish
Flour or rice flour for
Canola or vegetable (not olive) for frying
Dry fish with paper towel. Sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides. Heat frying pan or griddle to medium hot. Add 1/8 inch of oil.
Dust fish lightly on both sides with flour or rice flour. Fry half the fish at a time, turning carefully, until just cooked through. Place on platter and fry the remaining fish.
Spoon most of the sauce over the fish pieces, evening it out to cover the fish. Serve leftover sauce in a side dish. Accompany with unsalted white rice.
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