Friday, September 14, 2012

Baked Snapper with Chilli, Ginger and Basil

My house-mate was going to be absent for a while, so left me a small snapper in the freezer. In all honesty, I'm fairly nervous when it comes to cooking fish; there's just so many elements that can go wrong from overcooking and under-cooking, to not having the perfect balance between flavours, and perhaps most importantly, not working with fresh ingredients. I prefer fresh fish to frozen, especially when the last point is taken into consideration, but it was a much appreciated gift nevertheless. 

Red Snapper
Being at a loss on what to cook, I consulted my meagre collection of books and came up blank. Thankfully, I can rely on the Internet and ended up with this tasty (and relatively healthy) recipe influenced by Thai flavours (or at least, as close to Thai flavours as I understand, without truly understanding what authentic Thai means). I had a smaller fish, but increased the relative proportion of the other ingredients as I prefer stronger flavours. 

In any case, the first step is to prepare all the ingredients. 

Chillies, Rice Vinegar+Brown Sugar+Water, Garlic+Ginger, Basil, Tomatoes+Capsicum
After the cavity of the snapper is stuffed with basil leaves, frying on both sides gives the skin a nice crispiness. Thirty or so minutes in the oven whilst marinating the fish sauce, completes the cooking process. 

The remaining ingredients are cooked in the remnant peanut oil; the garlic, ginger, chillies and capsicum first, followed by the sugar, rice vinegar, water, and tomatoes. The fish without the sauce is a little bland, so this concoction ties the dish together nicely.

Sauce Part I
This fish dish goes perfectly with some stir-fried Asian greens, and some freshly steamed rice.

Baked Snapper with Chilli, Ginger and Basil

Adapted from Serves 2.


  • 1 small red snapper (approximately 350g), cleaned and scaled 
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil 
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger 
  • 3 small red chillies, sliced diagonally 
  • 1 yellow capsicum, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced 
  • Basil leaves for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. 
  2. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Stuff the cavity of the snapper with the basil leaves and set aside.
  3. Heat the peanut oil in a large wok over high heat until it begins to smoke. Place the snapper in the wok, and quickly brown on both sides, about 1 minute total. Place the fish into the roasting pan, and sprinkle with fish sauce. Reserve the peanut oil in the wok.
  4. Bake fish in preheated oven until the flesh flakes easily with a fork which will take roughly 30 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining peanut oil in the wok over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, ginger, chillies and yellow capsicum and cook until the capsicum has softened (about 5 minutes). 
  6. Stir in the sugar, rice vinegar, water, and tomatoes. 
  7. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until thickened to desired consistency. Pour the sauce over the snapper, and garnish with extra basil leaves to serve.
  8. Serve with stir-fried Asian greens and steamed rice.

Baked Snapper with Chilli, Ginger and Basil