Recipe courtesy of Bart van Olphen and Tom Kime's Fish Tales, which features recipes for Marine Stewardship Council-certified seafood, as well as stories about the location of the fisheries, and the people who catch fish. Find more grilled fish recipes from Fish Tales, and read an interview about sustainable fisheries with co-author Bart van Olphen.
The food from the small island of Penang, which borders Malaysia and Thailand, has been very influential on the larger region as a whole. The cuisine is famous for its great seafood dishes and its almost compulsory use of fiery red chili peppers. The hawker stalls and street food of Singapore, Malaysia, Penang, and Thailand are legendary and evoke scented memories for anyone visiting this region. We tried a bounty of different dishes and local seafood specialties, but a flat fish grilled like this at a night market in Penang was definitely the favorite. Writing this recipe brings back great memories of this vibrant island -- if you love good seafood, take a trip to Penang.
-Bart Van Olphen & Tom Kine, co-authors of Fish Tales.
4 to 6
5 red chiles, seeded and finely chopped (use less if you prefer it less spicy)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large piece of fresh ginger, peels and finely chopped
4 sprigs of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
juice of 1 lime
2 large place, weighing about 18oz each, gutted
For the dressing
4 lemongrass stems, finely chopped
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 sprigs of fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons of freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons water
In a pestle and mortar, grind together the chiles and the garlic. (Add a little salt to work as an abrasive and help break down the fibrous spices.) Add the ginger and cilantro and work into a paste. Add the fish sauce, the lime juice, and a splash of water.
Take the cleaned fish and cut four diagonal slashes in the skin on each side, right down to the bone. Make the cuts from left to right and then repeat with another four cuts that will form diamond-shaped markings in the flesh. (These cuts work in three ways: first they allow the spice-packed paste to permeate the flesh; second they allow direct heat to penetrate right to the bone, caramelizing the flesh and creating a great flavor; third they allow easy access for your guests to remove the roasted flesh, leaving nothing but bare bones on a cleaned platter.) Rub the chile paste into the slashes on both sides of the fish. Leave to marinate for 10 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the broiler or an outdoor grill and make the dressing. Place the lemongrass in a pestle and mortar with the salt and sugar and pound to make a coarse paste. Add the garlic, cilantro, and black pepper and continue to pound until you have a semi-smooth paste. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and water and mix until well blended.
If cooking on an outdoor grill, you will need a thin metal grid rack, such as a cake rack. If cooking under the broiler, you will need a flat baking sheet lined with tin foil. Arrange the plaice according to the chosen method of cooking and cook for about 7 minutes (or shorter depending on the heat of your broiler).
When the fish is cooked, transfer to a large platter, drizzle the lemongrass and black pepper dressing over the top, then watch the fish be devoured in a matter of minutes.
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