Asian coconut fish

At the heart of Vietnamese dishes you will find a distinctive layering of spicy, sour, sweet, bitter and salty tastes. By using sriracha, lime, palm sugar, tamarind and fish sauce, this dish incorporates the flavours that form the backbone of so many foods in Vietnamese cooking.

Vietnam has an extensive river system fronted by the Mekong as well as a wide coastline, making fish a popular source of protein in their daily diet. Tamarind is a common ingredient in many traditional dishes, favoured for its tangy flavour. The paste of this tart fruit of the tamarind tree is used as a souring, bitter agent in a variety of curries. Fish sauce, or nước mắm, is arguably one of the most important ingredients in Vietnamese cooking, and is a condiment made from fermented fish and used to give a salty flavour to a number of dishes.

This curry is unbelievably quick and simple to make and is comforting on a cold day thanks to the warming kick from the sriracha. Light coconut milk makes a healthy alternative if you’re trying to cut down on fat, but if you can afford the extra calories, use whole fat coconut milk. Tamarind paste and sriracha are now widely available in most supermarkets in the UK and are an easy way to bring a taste of Vietnam to your meal.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

For the sauce: 1tbsp vegetable oil 1 shallot, finely sliced 1 stick of lemongrass 1 small piece of ginger, grated half a teaspoon of turmeric 1tsp palm sugar 1 tin of light coconut milk 2tsp sriracha 3tsp tamarind paste 3tsp fish sauce

2 skinless fish fillets (plaice or haddock work well, but check MSC for what’s sustainable this season) 4tbsp plain flour, seasoned 1tbsp vegetable oil 1 pak choi, sliced

To serve: juice of half a lime a handful of chopped coriander

METHOD

Fry the shallot and lemongrass in 1tbsp of the oil for a couple of minutes until slightly softened.

Add the coconut milk, sriracha, tamarind, turmeric, palm sugar and ginger, letting it all bubble away for about 15 minutes until it has reduced roughly by half.

While the sauce is simmering away, coat the fish in the seasoned flour and fry in the remaining oil for roughly 2 minutes each side (depending on the thickness of your fish). Just before it is finished add the pak choi to the pan and cook until slightly wilted but still crunchy.

Your sauce should be thick enough to easily coat a spoon by now. Finish it off with a squeeze of lime juice. Transfer the fish and pak choi to a plate. Spoon over the curry sauce and finish with a sprinkling of coriander leaves, a drizzle of a little extra sriracha and a wedge of lime.

Recipe by Nicola Richman

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