Seafood Feast (Part 1): Poached Snakehead Fish, Thai-Style

September 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’ll admit right off the bat; I’m a lazy cook.

So anything that can help to shorten the time it takes to whip up dinner without compromising on flavor, quality and healthfulness is fair game, which brings me to those wonderful pre-filleted slabs of fish sold in supermarkets these days. Chide me if you will about the tragic waste of fishbones for stock-making; I’m immune because I have no plans to make fish soup anytime in the near future. For busy working folk like us, “fish slabs” are a godsend.

Sheng Siong sells some nicely filleted fish, all ready to be picked, weighed and whisked home for rapid consumption. On a Saturday afternoon, there was salmon, cod, snakehead, golden grouper and Spanish mackerel on display. There was also a slab of fish labeled “seafood”, but I hesitate to speculate on its origins. Not being able to decide between frying and steaming, I went with both; salmon to be pan-seared and snakehead to be steamed/poached in a foil bag.

As I was selecting my slabs, I saw in the corner of my eye movement in the prawn section; fresh prawns! One or two little prawns were still kicking around a bit in the tray, which means only one thing: steamed prawns to go with our fish dinner! Yum! I gleefully snagged myself a bagful.

If you know me at all, you’ll know I love me some Thai food, I really do. Living in Asia, you can’t run away from it, not that you should try to. The balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy finds its home in Thai cuisine, and typical Thai flavors are fresh, bright and alive. The best kind of fish for this style of cooking is white-fleshed and non-oily, so I went with the snakehead. As I was already pan-searing the salmon and steaming the prawns, I decided to poach/bake the snakehead in a foil bag in the oven.

Thai-Style Poached Snakehead Fish

300-400g slab of snakehead fish

For the sauce (A)

  • 1inch piece ginger, thumb-sized, sliced into discs
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 5 red shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 chili padi
  • 1 tsp ginger flower, finely chopped (optional)

For the sauce (B)

  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce


  • Cilantro, roughly torn
  • Red chilies, cut into thin strips

1. Preheat oven to 175°C.

2. Wash the fish and remove any bones you can feel.

3. Tear off a piece of aluminum foil that is large enough to place the fish on top and fold half the sheet over. Place the fish on the foil.

4. Layer all ingredients in (A) over the fish.

5. Mix all the ingredients in (B) together and pour over the fish.

6. Make a pocket out of the foil by folding the top half over the fish and folding the edges together to seal in all the good stuff. Kinda like a shiny curry puff or empanada.

7. Place the pocket on a tray and slide into the oven. Bake for 15min or until fish is just cooked through.

8. Garnish with cilantro and red chilies; serve with steamed rice.


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