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Nothing is more stunning at the dinner table than serving a whole fried fish with a fragrant unctuous sauce. Buy a lean, mild, and flaky fish that is 10 to 14 ounces, such as tilapia, fresh water trout, or anything from the snapper family. Caution should be used when deep-frying the fish, so make sure you have plenty of room and a big pot. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Recipe Summary

15 mins
15 mins
30 mins
1 whole fish


Original recipe yields 4 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Cut several angled slits along the body of the fish, cutting down to the rib bones. Cut 2 lateral slits along the back of the fish, from head to tail on either side of the dorsal fin. These cuts will ensure quick cooking and maximum crispiness.

  • Heat oil for frying in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

  • Gently place fish into the hot oil and fry until crispy, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Gently remove fish from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion, red chile peppers, and garlic until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Add fish sauce and soy sauce and remove wok from heat. Quickly stir basil and cilantro into sauce.

  • Place fish on a large serving platter and pour sauce over fish.

Cook's Note:

To test the oil temperature if you do not have a thermometer, dip the head of the fish into the oil; if it sizzles, it is ready, if it does not sizzle, then wait a couple minutes and try again.

Editor's Note:

We have determined the nutritional value of oil for frying based on a retention value of 10% after cooking. Amount will vary depending on cooking time and temperature, ingredient density, and specific type of oil used.

Nutrition Facts

338 calories; protein 16.6g; carbohydrates 9.2g; fat 26.7g; cholesterol 26mg; sodium 1033.1mg. Full Nutrition