Many people find cooking a whole fish to be quite a daunting task. Although it may seem just simpler to buy fish fillets, cooking the fish whole adds a rich wonderful layer of flavor and depth to the dish. The presentation can also be quite dramatic! This simple recipe is a great way to ease yourself into the idea of cooking the fish whole. I encourage you to try the recipe using a whole fish but do feel free to use fish fillets, it will be equally delicious.
Any firm white fish will work for this recipe as long as it is fresh. You can ask the fishmonger to prepare the fish by having him remove the scales, fins and the insides. You can also ask him to recommend a good fish to cook whole; it should just weigh less than 2 lbs. This will easily feed 6 people.
Some good fish varieties are red snapper, flounder, sea bass, bream, trout, dorado, cod, tilapia, sole, grouper, halibut, char, salmon, mahi mahi...
BROILED or GRILLED WHOLE FISH, Indian style
1 medium whole firm fish (or fish fillets)
2 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1-2 fresh small Thai green or red chilies
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp ground cumin powder
pinch of red chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp oil, vegetable or canola
juice of 1 lime or lemon
pinch of sugar, optional
freshly chopped scallions (green onions or spring onions), green part only
1 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted for garnish
1 tbsp black sesame seeds for garnish
Thoroughly rinse the fish and pat dry. With a sharp knife, carefully score the fish by making long deep diagonal incisions about 2 inches apart on both sides of the fish. Season both sides of the fish, as well as the insides liberally with salt, pepper and turmeric.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, chilies, scallions and the spices (garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and red chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes). Add the lime or lemon juice and a pinch of sugar if needed. Add 2 tbsp of oil and mix thoroughly. Pour this marinade generously over the fish, making sure to fill the inside of the fish and the incisions as well. Cover and let refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To BROIL the fish, remove from the marinade and drain well. Reserve any marinade for basting. Place the fish on a foil lined broiler pan. Place the pan under a preheated broiler 4 inches away from the heating source. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes on one side, baste liberally and broil for an additional 2 to 4 minutes on the other side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Garnish with white and black sesame seeds and serve.
To GRILL the fish, remove from the marinade and drain well. Reserve any marinade for basting. On a clean hot well-oiled grill on medium high heat, gently lay the fish over the grill and do not touch for at least 4-5 minutes. Carefully turn the fish on the other side; it will pull away easily from the grill if it is done.
If not, try again after another minute or so. Liberally baste the fish and let sit for another 4-5 minutes until done. The fish should be opaque and flake easily when tested with a fork. Garnish with white and black sesame seeds and serve.