For such a simple dish to make, this turned out to be an incredibly luxurious. It’s all in the sauce. The coconut gravy is thick and creamy, yet with a nice chilli kick to it. And come on, look at it! The glorious yellow pool in the centre of your plate, with speckles of red and green, and topped with crispy pan-seared fish? Beautiful.
Now you don’t have to use barramundi, or asian sea bass or siakap as it is also called, but it was what we had on hand. You can substitute it for any other fish which has similar firm, white flesh. Too soft a meat and it won’t be able to stand up to that sauce.
- 2 barramundi fillets
- 1 1/2 large green chilli (or 4 - 5 smaller, regular-sized chillies), rough chopped
- 4 red bird's eye chillies, rough chopped
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, tightly packed
- Thumb-sized ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- 200ml coconut cream
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 red chilli, sliced into thin batons for garnish
- Cilantro, chopped for garnish
- Spring onion, sliced for garnish
- In a processor, blend the green chillies, bird's eye chillies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and sesame oil until it forms a fine paste. You may need a couple of tablespoons of water to get it going.
- In a saucepan, heat up some oil over medium heat. Pour in the blended paste and turmeric powder and sauté for a couple of minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and start with 1/2 cup water. Give the mixture a good stir.
- Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about three minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 2 teaspoons of fish sauce and 1 and a half teaspoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper and taste the sauce. You may need to add more fish sauce or lemon juice, and adjust seasoning if necessary. You can also add more of the water if you'd like the gravy to be less thick.
- Finish off the sauce by adding the butter. Leave to cook for another two minutes, then remove from the heat. Reheat the sauce just before serving.
- In a frying pan, heat some oil. Meanwhile season the fish fillets with salt.
- When the pan is hot, add the barramundi fillets skin side down. Press and hold down each slice gently for about three seconds to avoid the fish from curling.
- Release, then leave the fish to cook for about 4 minutes, before flipping them over. Depending on the thickness of your fillets, you may need between 2 to 3 minutes of cooking on the other side.
- When serving, ladle the gravy onto your plate, place the fish fillets gently in the centre and top with reserved chillies, cilantro and spring onions. We served this with some string beans, and rice to mop up all that delicious gravy.