Why whole fish?
In Asia, we know the gastronomic value of cooking fish whole. The rich flavor, after all, is concentrated in the bones, especially the head.
If you belong to a culture where fish head is considered unfit for human consumption and fish bones are discarded before the fish flesh hits the retailer, and you prefer to substitute fish fillets, know that the dish won’t be as flavorful but, at least, you’ll have the wonderful sauce to enjoy the fish with.
What fish is ideal?
I used white snapper but any firm and fleshy fish is good.
Is fresh pineapple a must?
Fresh pineapple went with the white snapper. Canned is simply too cloying. Meanwhile, fresh pineapple has that wonderful sweetness with a hint of tanginess in the background. And that makes it perfect for this dish.
If, in your part of the world, fresh pineapple is hard to come by and there is no reasonable option but to substitute canned, balance the sweetness with a dash of lemon juice.
Is store-bought sweet chili sauce okay to use?
My answer is a qualified yes. Some sweet chili sauces are better than others. Some are spicier than others; some are sweeter than others. The only brand of store-bought sweet chili sauce we like is Pantai (origin: Thailand). If you decide to use store-bought, whatever the brand, you may need to modify the amount of fish sauce and pineapple juice to mix in it.
Fried whole fish with chili pineapple sauce
- 1 whole white snapper or other firm and fleshy fish, about 800 grams, gutted and scales removed
- 2 tablespoons potato starch or corn starch
- 3 cups cooking oil
- ¾ cup sweet chili sauce
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon pineapple juice freshly squeezed
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 bird’s eye chili finely sliced
- finely sliced scallions to garnish
- Rinse the fish and wipe dry with a kitchen towel.
- Score both sides of the fish.
- Rub generously with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle starch over the entire fish.
- Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan.
- When the oil is just starting to smoke (or 350F to 375F if you’re using a thermometer), slide the fish in.
- Over high heat, cook until browned and crisp, about four minutes per side.
- Scoop out and lay on a serving plate.
- Pour off the oil from the wok or frying pan.
- Pour the sweet chili sauce, fish sauce and pineapple juice into the pan. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the pineapple chunks and bird’s eye chili slices. Simmer for 30 seconds.
- Pour the sauce, pineapple and chili over the fish.
- Garnish with scallions before serving.