Whole Thai Fried Fish with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

This recipe will wow guests and it’s a lot easier than you might think. If you don’t have the patience to make my Khao Tom recipe to accompany this (which I don’t blame you), serve it up with some jasmine rice and stir-fried vegetables for a satisfying meal.


Whole Thai Fried Fish with Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: Serves 3-4 people



For the Fish

  • 1.5lb- 2lb whole tilapia, red snapper, or any white fish, scaled, gutted and cleaned

  • Vegetable oil, for frying (~6-8 cups, I used canola)

  • Salt and pepper

  • ½ cup white rice flour

  • 2 tablespoons tempura batter mix

  • 1 English cucumber, sliced into thin rounds

  • Cilantro for garnish

For the Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce

  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

  • 2 tbsp. shallots, minced

  • 1 tbsp. minced red Thai chilis

  • 1 tbsp. cilantro stems, minced

  • 2 tbsp. garlic, minced

  • ½ cup water

  • 2 tbsp. tamarind paste

  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce

  • 3 tbsp. sugar

  • 1 tbsp. lime juice


Start by making the sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add in shallots, Thai chilis, cilantro stems and garlic and decrease the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 minutes until fragrant, stirring often, being careful to not let the garlic get brown or crispy. Add the water, tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice and bring to a boil. Stir often, until the sugar and tamarind paste is completely dissolved and the sauce has thickened slightly approximately 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside until ready to use.

In a large wok or Dutch oven, pour enough oil in to completely submerge the fish, by about an inch. Heat the oil over medium-high until it reaches 350F.

While your oil is heating up, prep your fish by patting it dry with a paper towel, and slicing 3-4 deep cuts in both sides of the fish from the gills to the tail. Season the fish with salt and pepper.

Mix together the rice flour and the tempura batter mix, and coat the fish completely, being sure to get the flour mixture inside the slits. Gently shake to remove any excess flour before placing the fish into the preheated oil. Fry the fish for 4-6 minutes per side (depending on its size), flipping carefully with tongs. You can always remove the fish at the 8-minute mark, and check for doneness. If the fish is not opaque and flaky at it’s thickest part, return it to the hot oil and cook for a couple more minutes.

Remove the fish from the oil and place it on a bed of paper towels to remove any excess grease. If your sweet and spicy sauce has cooled, gently reheat it over medium heat.

Line a serving platter with the cucumber rounds, place the fish on top and pour the warm sauce overtop. Garnish with cilantro sprigs.