A delicate balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy. So good you’ll want to keep both portions to yourself.
½ lb [225 g] fish fillets (a firm, white-fleshed fish works well here)
½ tsp [5 ml] freshly ground black pepper, and more for serving
2 tbsp [15 ml] brown sugar
¼ cup [125 ml] warm water
2 tbsp [15 ml] fish sauce
2 tbsp [15 ml] vegetable oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly into rings
2-3 Thai red chilies, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass
3 green onions (scallions)
1 cup [225 ml] cooked jasmine rice
2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
½ cup [75 g] broccoli florets
1 tbsp [15 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp [15 ml] Japanese soy sauce (less sodium)
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Rinse the fish fillets under water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the fillets in 2 to 3 smaller pieces. Sprinkle both sides of the fish with black pepper and set aside.
Dissolve the sugar into the warm water and stir in the fish sauce. Trim the lemongrass stalks so you’re left with just the bottom pale-colored sections. If there are any tough, dry-looking layers on the outside, peel those off and discard. Mince very finely.
Trim the ends of the green onions. Cut the white parts in half lengthwise, then cut the whole green onions into 2-inch sections. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add in the oil and swirl around to coat the pan. Add in the shallots and allow them to fry until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon or chopsticks, remove the shallots and set on paper towels to drain and crisp up, leaving the oil in the pan.
If you turned off the stove after the last step, reheat the oil in the pan over high heat. Add lemongrass and stir for 5-10 seconds. Add the fish fillets into the hot oil and sear for 10-15 seconds. Using a spatula, carefully turn the fish over and allow it to sear on the other side.
Add in the liquid ingredients and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add in the green onions and red chilies. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets), uncovered. Flip the fish over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s cooking off too quickly, lower the heat. You want the sauce to reduce to a syrupy consistency but not completely evaporate.
Transfer the fish to a shallow serving dish. Keep warm until service.
Prepare the broccoli and the rice: Place the broccoli florets in a shallow microwavable bowl. Splash with 2 tablespoons water [30 ml] and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 1m25. Uncover (careful, very hot steam will come out of the bowl), drain the broccoli, then toss with extra-virgin olive oil and soy sauce. Sprinkle with black pepper. Reserve.
Warm the cooked jasmine rice, then mix with the sliced green onions. Transfer to a serving bowl.
To serve, top the fish with more black pepper and the reserved fried shallots. Put out all the dishes family-style and dig in.
Recipe Credit: Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia, by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford