My family and I are total Thai food addicts. There’s something about the salty, acidic and spicy flavors that leave our tongues tingling and our bellies rumbling for more. When it’s too hot to cook or I’m just plain lazy, we reach for our trusty neighborhood Thai takeaway menu. Usually it’s pad see ew (thick, flat rice noodles stir-fried with slices of beef, veggies and egg) for the kids and green curry chicken for the adults (along with a smattering of other spicy goodies). We crave Thai so often that I finally bit the bullet and tried my hand at a few new, easy Thai recipes. This Thai fish with basil sauce, with its crunchy slices of celery and bell pepper, was a huge hit at our house and an instant favorite.
I adapted this recipe from a Thai cooking class I took last year hosted by Chef Saiphin of Rosa’s Thai Cafe, a chain of Thai restaurants here in London. Chef Saiphin is a lovely, warm person with recipes that she adapted from cooking at home to a broader London audience. I loved her spicy version of this Thai fish with basil sauce. The layers of flavors in the basil sauce — savory, sweet, a little sticky — are a deeply satisfying complement to flaky, delicate fish.
The best part about this sauce is that it makes a great drizzle over steaming hot bowls of white rice. When you eat Asian food, are you a drizzler or a purist? I’ve always been a drizzler. I love taking spoonfuls of spicy curry or chili sauce and flavoring my rice. It’s like having an-extra flavorful side that perfectly matches the main course. If you’re not drizzling, the question is — why aren’t you?
Luckily, if you haven’t been introduced yet to the art of a good drizzle on white rice, this Thai fish with basil sauce is a great place to start. The chunks of celery and red bell pepper are just bonus veggies that add an excellent textural balance against the tender, flaky fish filets. I used local English sea bass to make this Thai fish with basil sauce, but you could just as easily do the same with cod, hailbut or other firm white fish filets.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get your Thai chef hat on!
- 4-6 sea bass filets or other firm white fish filets (like cod or halibut)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 2 tablespoons light (regular)soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons water or chicken stock
- 2 celery sticks
- 1 red bell pepper
- a bunch of fresh basil leaves (Thai or sweet basil)
- Chop the celery sticks horizontally into moon-shaped pieces. Slice the red bell peppers into pieces approximately the same size. Rinse and dry the basil, then stack the leaves on top of each other. Roll the basil leaves lengthwise into a tight cigar, then slice into the cigar thinly to create long, thin strips. Set the basil, peppers and celery aside.
- Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Season the fish filets with salt and pepper. Add them to the skillet, skin side down, being careful to leave plenty of space around each fish filet (save some to the side and pan-fry them in batches if you don't have space in your skillet for all of them). As you add each filet, press down firmly on the filet with a spatula to make sure you brown the skin. Keep cooking the fish skin side down for about 3-4 minutes, until the sides of the fish start to turn opaque.
- Carefully flip the fish over and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is completely opaque. Transfer the fish to a serving plate and continue pan-frying the fish until all of the filets are cooked.
- Add the garlic to the skillet and stir-fry for about a minute. Add in the oyster sauce, soy sauces, sugar, fish sauce and stock. Add the bell peppers and celery and stir fry for another minute, then stir in the basil leaves and pour the entire sauce over the fish. Serve with steamed white rice.
Like this Thai fish with basil sauce recipe? Check out these other Asian recipes:
- Chinese Pork Meatballs with Collard Greens
- Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge)
- Vietnamese Rainbow Noodle Jars
- Chinese Minced Pork Noodles