Baked Whole Fish in Garlic-Chili Sauce

Thai Whole Baked Fish
Baked Whole Fish (frozen Gray Mullet was used here). Copyright D.Schmidt
    35 min
Ratings (20)

While fresh whole fish is usually grilled outdoors in Thailand, here in North America we often have to come up with alternate cooking methods owing to weather conditions. To accommodate both indoor and outdoor methods, here's a fish recipe that can either be baked indoors, or grilled on your BBQ. A variety of white-fleshed fish can be used in this recipe, including red snapper, gray mullet, rainbow trout, tilapia, or whatever you have that's fresh and good. If you prefer a more authentic approach, bake your fish in banana leaves instead of foil.

What You'll Need

  • 1 whole red snapper or gray mullet, or 2 or a whole rainbow trout or tilapia, fresh or frozen
  • Generous handful fresh coriander
  • Handful fresh basil
  • Lemon slices or wedges for serving
  • 4 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 4 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp. fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. lime or lemon juice
  • 1-3 red chilies, sliced, OR 2+ tsp. Thai chili sauce (adjust the amount according to how spicy you'd like your fish)

How to Make It

If using frozen fish, be sure to thaw it thoroughly before cooking. This can be done quickly by soaking fish in a bowl or sink of cool water.

If your fish hasn't been cleaned: Make a cut along the underside of fish from the head to 3/4 of the way towards the tail. Reach inside to remove guts and discard. Rinse fish inside and out. Remove scales by scraping a large knife along the fish's surface, scraping from the tail toward head until most of the scales have been removed.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, or warm up your barbecue/grill.
  2. Stir all marinade/sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place fish on a cutting board and score it by making vertical cuts an inch or more apart along the length of fish from head to tail. Turn fish over and do the same on the other side.
  4. If Grilling the Fish: See below.

    For Baked Fish: Place fish on a large piece of tin foil or banana leaf. Make sure the foil or leaf is big enough to cover/wrap the fish. (For more information on banana leaf, see my: All About Cooking With Banana Leaves.)

  5. Drizzle 3 Tbsp. (or more) of the marinade/sauce over each fish, covering both sides. Be sure to spoon some into the cuts you've made, as well as into the underside cavity. Reserve the rest for later.
  6. Bring the long sides of the foil up and over the fish, scrunching it together. Try to keep the foil off the surface of the fish, making a kind of shallow tent over it. Also, fold up each end and scrunch to secure. If using banana leaf: Simply fold the sides and ends of the leaf over fish to cover it. With banana leaf, you actually want the leaf to come into contact with the fish, as this adds to the flavor.
  7. Bake the fish (in foil) directly on your oven rack. Or - if you're worried about spillage, place wrapped fish on a baking sheet or tray and place in the oven. Fish wrapped in banana leaf will require a dish or tray, as a banana leaf is permeable.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or longer, depending on the size and thickness of your fish.
  9. Remove fish from oven and check some of the deeper cuts to see if the inner flesh is cooked (it should be opaque, not pink or translucent-looking). If fish still needs more time, return to your oven for another 8-10 minutes, or until cooked.
  10. To finish the fish, remove from oven and open up the foil, scrunching it around the fish to create a kind of bowl (see photo). For banana leaf, simply open up the leaf, which will have become drier and slightly crispy.
  11. Pour remaining marinade/sauce over fish and return to the oven. Turn oven on "Broil" setting, and broil for 5-8 minutes, or until the fish is nicely browned and crisp-looking (like barbecue fish). Banana leaves will become quite brown and fragrant.
  12. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the fish with fresh coriander and basil. Add lemon wedges or slices, and ENJOY!
  • To Barbecue Fish: Brush your grill with a little oil to keep fish from sticking (if using a fish cage, it also helps to brush it with oil).
  • Drizzle 3 Tbsp. (or more) of the marinade/sauce over each fish, covering both sides. Be sure to spoon some into the cuts you've made, as well as into the underside cavity.
  • Grill fish for 10-20 minutes (depending on the size and thickness of the fish, and the how hot your grill is). If barbecuing directly on the grill, allow fish to cook for at least 5 minutes before turning it the first time - otherwise, the skin may stick to the grill and tear.
  • Use remaining marinade/sauce to baste as your barbecue, OR pour over fish right before serving. Fish is done when inner flesh is opaque and no longer pink or translucent. To serve, top with fresh coriander and basil, plus wedges of lime or lemon, and ENJOY!