1 kg fish on the bone, gutted, scaled, and head and tail removed and reserved
4 long red chillies, left whole
1 stick lemongrass, white part only, roughly smashed
3 fresh tamarind seeds
400 ml coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 long green chillies, roughly chopped
2 cm fresh turmeric, sliced
2 thumbs of ginger, sliced
3-4 green bird’s eye chillies
a handful of basil leaves
Extra basil leaves
Basil flowers (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat up the grill, medium high heat and add 1 tsp oil. Char the shallots until black, and the long red chilies. Don’t move them around too much as you want the grill marks. It should take around 2 minutes. Reserve 2 of the long grilled chillies for garnishing
Blend the ingredients for the paste with a little water until smooth.
Make 3 incisions about 1cm deep on each side of the fish. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mixture on each side of the fish, making sure to get the paste into the cuts.
Roughly chop the charred shallots and chilli, and pound in a mortar and pestle with a little salt. Add some basil leaves to the mix and keep pounding to a coarse paste.
Heat a high-sided, wide pan over low heat, and sauté the blended paste with lemongrass. Add 2 tablespoons of the coarse pounded chilli paste, along with about 200 ml of water.
Add the head and tail of the fish and the fresh tamarind. Simmer on a low heat till slightly thickened whilst you grill the fish
Meanwhile, heat a char grill over high heat and add a splash of oil. Grill the fish for 6-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
Remove the fish head and tail from the sauce mixture, and add the coconut milk. Stir to mix and bring to the boil.
To serve, place the grilled fish in the middle of the plate, and spoon the sauce around it. Garnish with extra basil leaves and reserved charred chilies.