Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Steamed Fish With Lemon Grass (Pla Neung Takrai)

adapted from Stylish Thai In Minutes by Vatcharin Bhumichitr

1 whole fish, about 500g (grouper, sea bass, pomfret or any lean, firm
textured fish)
4 stalks lemon grass

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Thai bird's eye chili, finely sliced
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
3½ tbsp lime juice
2 tsp sugar

Make sure the fish has been scaled, gutted and cleaned. Score fish
with 2 or 3 diagonal cuts on both sides.

Remove outer layer of lemon grass. Trim the top and bottom of the
stalks to fit a heat proof dish. Bruise the lemon grass with the back
of a knife and then halved each stalk length wise. Stuff a few pieces
into the cuts on the fish. Layer the rest of the lemon grass on the

Place fish on the bed of lemon grass and steam over medium to high
heat for about 15 minutes or until cooked.

Put together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Stir until the
sugar has dissolved. Add chili and garlic to the sauce. Let stand for
at least 30 minutes before use to allow the flavors to blend.

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the steamer straight away.
There will be be some liquid in the dish due to moisture from the fish
and the lemon grass. Spoon that liquid over the fish. Then pour the
sauce over and around the fish. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve

Freshness of the fish is in my opinion what makes or break this dish.
If possible, get the fish fresh from the market and cook it on the
same day.

I specify the use of Thai fish sauce in this recipe because it is
milder in flavor and as the sauce is not cooked, a more robust fish
sauce like the Vietnamese or Chinese variety may be too salty and
fishy. If you have to use Vietnamese or Chinese fish sauce, replace 1
to 2 tablespoon of the fish sauce with water to dilute.

The sauce used here is very similar to a popular Vietnamese dipping
sauce known as nuoc cham. I usually make extra to use as dipping
sauce, salad dressing and marinade. It will keep in the fridge for
about a week.


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