Balinese Whole Fish

Cook time 50 minutes
Servings 4


2 whole baby barramundi or snapper (300g-400g each), scaled, cleaned, scored on both sides
⅓ cup coconut oil
6 purple shallots, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5cm piece ginger, finely chopped
5 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced
10 curry leaves
3 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
4 long red chillies, deseeded, thinly sliced
2 red birdseye chillies*, finely chopped
½ cup coconut flakes, toasted, for garnish
1 tsp shrimp paste
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
400ml can coconut milk

Thinly sliced green onions, coriander sprigs, toasted coconut flakes and lime wedges, to serve

* Adjust heat level by using less or more chillies – deseeding chillies will reduce heat level. Serve with pickled or fresh cucumbers to counteract heat. You made need to increase the amount of sambal depending on the size of the fish. You may need to adjust taste of sambal with a little extra fish sauce, sugar or lime juice to your taste.

Balinese Whole Fish


Preheat oven to 180°C.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the coconut oil over high heat. Add shallot, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, curry leaves, lemongrass, chillies and shrimp paste, stirring constantly. Cook for three to four minutes or until mixture is fragrant, then stir in sugar, fish sauce and lime juice. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Reserve 1/4 of the sambal in a small saucepan and divide the remaining sambal between the cavities of the fish. Secure the fish cavities with toothpicks.

Line two large baking trays with baking paper. Heat remaining oil in a large non-stick frypan over high heat. Add the fish, one at a time, cooking for about two minutes per side until skin is golden and crisp.
Place fish on prepared baking trays, and transfer to oven for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining sambal over medium heat, then stir in coconut milk and gently heat through. Strain sauce through a fine sieve into a jug.

Place fish on serving plates, drizzle with sauce and serve topped with green onions, coriander, toasted coconut and lime wedges, if desired.