Coconut-Crusted Grouper Tail
in a Chili-Lemongrass Broth
with Papaya Noodles
My wife and I spent two months traveling Southeast Asia. A culinary dream trip.
Each country contributed its share of magnificent combinations of flavors and ingredients.
From the papaya salads in Thailand to the Pho bowls for breakfast in Vietnam, and the roadside fried fish to pad thai coming out of our ears.
The level of heat had us crying with tears of spicy joy whilst the fresh flavor combos had us coming back for more.
1. In a heavy-bottomed pot set on medium-high.
Add the chicken stock, garlic, ginger, chili flakes, onion flakes, fish sauce, chili and lemongrass.
Bring to a simmer until 2 cups have evaporated. Do not let the liquid boil.
2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine the oils and heat to medium-high.
3. In three bowls, place the seasoned flour, the beaten egg, and the coconut flakes.
Dip the filets in each bowl starting with the flour, followed by submerging the flour-covered fish in egg wash, then completely cover it in coconut flakes.
4. Carefully fry off 3-4 pieces of fish at once until golden brown.
Place fried pieces on kitchen towel to drain then onto an oven tray.
When all the fish is fried, place in oven for 5 minutes while preparing the plates.
5. In shallow bowls, place a handful of the papaya “noodles” in the center and a piece of grouper on top.
6. Discard the lemongrass from the broth, then carefully ladle some into each bowl.
Make sure to get some of all the ingredients in each bowl.
Garnish with fresh cilantro, mint and green onion and serve straight away.
This is not a version of a classical dish, nor was it handed to me on a decrepit scrap of paper - a family recipe before the Ming dynasty.
This is just a combination of my favorite flavors we experienced, favorite cooking styles we witnessed, and from a region that will influence my cooking for years to come.
6 cups chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small bulb ginger, sliced
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 Tbsp dried onion flakes
4 tsp fish sauce
1 Serrano chili, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, smashed
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup olive oil
1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
12 2-4 oz. grouper filets (I used the tail pieces.)
1 papaya, thinly sliced into noodle-like shapes
1 bunch mint, washed and leaves pulled off
1 bunch cilantro, washed and leaves pulled off
5 green onions, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F