I modeled this dish after a favorite from one of our local Thai restaurants, a lightly battered fried red snapper served with cashews and heaps of herbs like cilantro and mint. It’s also dressed with a healthy serving of Nam Pla Prik, a Thai Chili Lime Sauce that comes together in minutes with thai bird’s eye chilis, lime juice, and fish sauce. It’s traditionally served with some minced red onion, although I always leave that out. It’s just as good without as it is with, depending on your taste and tolerance for raw onion. Don’t skip the fish sauce though — it’s that fermented umami combined with the lime juice that gives this sauce its special tang. We grill the fish, because, well, then it’s not deep fried and the flaky fillets absorb the sauce perfectly.
WHOLE GRILLED TROUT WITH CILANTRO, MINT, NAM PLA PRIK (Thai Chili Lime Sauce) AND CASHEWS
What You Need:
For the Fish:
¼ cup cashews
3 whole trout or other small fish such as branzino, perch or red snapper, scaled, cleaned, & heads removed or butterflied, about 1 lb each*
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 bunch mint
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch thai holy basil, if available
4-6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
For the Nam Pla Prik (Thai Chili Lime Sauce):
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2-3 limes)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 clove garlic, grated on microplane, optional
2-3 Thai chilis, sliced thin
1 small red onion, minced, optional
What You Do:
In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cashews until they are lightly browned, shaking the pan frequently, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside.
Sprinkle sea salt and crushed white pepper on the insides of the fish. Stuff each fish with a couple of sprigs of cilantro, a couple sprigs of mint, a sprig of thai basil, and 1-2 kaffir lime leaves. Brush the outside of each fish lightly with canola oil.
Heat a grill on high heat.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a bowl whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar and garlic. Stir in sliced thai chilis and red onion, if using.
Grill the fish over high heat, turning once, 6-7 minutes per side or until skin is crisped and flesh is flaky. Serve immediately with the Thai Chili Lime Sauce, toasted cashews, more fresh mint, cilantro and thai basil leaves.
No grill? No problem. You can also cook this whole fish under the broiler in a cast iron skillet or broiler safe pan. Heat the pan under the broiler for about 10 minutes. Add the prepared fish to the pan and place back under the broiler for about 6-7 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 5-6 minutes on the other side.
*Fish weigh in before head removal. Be sure to adjust cooking time for the size of your fish. I find 6-7 minutes per side is perfect for fish that are just over a pound each and this is enough fish to serve 4-6 people.