The sauce is not sweet and sour—rather, it is sweet, salty and hot. To cook this crispy fried fish with chili pineapple sauce, I used my homemade sweet chili sauce, added fish sauce for balance and then stirred in a little pineapple juice for a delicate fruity flavor.
In Asia, we know the gastronomic value of cooking fish whole. The rich flavor, after all, is concentrated in the bones, especially the head. If you belong to a culture where fish head is considered unfit for human consumption and fish bones are discarded before the fish flesh hits the retailer, you may substitute fish fillets. The dish won’t be as flavorful but, at least, you’ll have the wonderful sauce to enjoy the fish with.
What variety of fish is ideal? I used white snapper but any firm and fleshy fish is good.
Fresh pineapple went with the white snapper. Canned is simply too cloying. Meanwhile, fresh pineapple has that wonderful sweetness with a hint of tanginess in the background. And that makes it perfect for this dish. If, in your part of the world, fresh pineapple is hard to come by and there is no reasonable option but to substitute canned, balance the sweetness with a dash of lemon juice.
- 1 whole white snapper or other firm and fleshy fish, about 800 grams, gutted and scales removed
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 cups cooking oil for frying
- 3/4 cup sweet chili sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon patis (fish sauce)
- 1 tablespoon pineapple juice freshly squeezed
- 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 bird's eye chili finely sliced
- finely sliced scallions
Rinse the fish and wipe dry with a kitchen towel. Score both sides of the fish. Rub generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle flour over the entire fish.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan. When the oil is just starting to smoke (or 350F to 375F if you're using a thermometer), slide the fish in. Over high heat, cook until browned and crisp, about four minutes per side. Scoop out and lay on a serving plate.
Pour off the oil from the wok or frying pan.
Pour the sweet chili sauce, fish sauce and pineapple juice into the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add the pineapple chunks and bird's eye chili slices. Simmer for 30 seconds.
Pour the sauce, pineapple and chili over the fish. Garnish with scallions before serving.