Deep-fried sea bass with Issan-style salad
For the roasted rice powder
- 100g/3½oz sticky rice
For the roasted chilli powder
- 200g/7oz hot dried chilies
For the sea bass
- 1 sea bass about 500-600g/1lb 2oz-1lb 5oz, gutted and scaled but fins and tail left on
- 3 tbsp light soy sauce
- pinch white sugar
- vegetable oil, for deep frying
For the salad
- 2 sticks lemongrass, thinly sliced
- 4-5 Thai red shallots, thinly sliced (available online)
- 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
- small handful of sawtooth coriander (sometimes called Thai parsley), thinly sliced (available online)
- 3-4 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves, cut into very fine strips
- small handful fresh mint leaves
- small handful fresh coriander leaves
- 2-3 dry chillies, fried briefly in a little oil until dark red and crisp
For the dressing
For the roasted rice powder, dry toast the rice in a heavy pan over a low heat until golden-brown. Leave to cool, then grind to a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.
For the roasted chilli powder, slowly dry roast hot dried chillies in a wok or frying over a medium-low heat until dark red and a little black in places, this should take about 10-15 minutes. Then grind into a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.
Preheat a deep-fat fryer or a deep-sided, heavy-bottomed pan to 180C, or until a breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden-brown when dropped into it. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not over-fill the pan or leave unattended).
Score the sea bass with 3-4 angled cuts on each side. Then roll it in the soy sauce and sugar. Place the fish in the deep fry basket so it curls slightly (this is just for presentation) and then deep fry it for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is crisp and the flesh a deep golden-brown.
While the fish is frying, place all the salad ingredients, except the fried chillies, in a mixing bowl.
Now make the dressing, mix together the lime juice and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fish sauce, mandarin juice, 3 tablespoons water and roasted chilli powder. Taste and adjust: it should be hot, sour and slightly salty. Set aside.
Once the fish is cooked, carefully remove from the fryer and allow to drain and cool slightly on kitchen paper for a minute
Put the fish on a large plate and pour ⅓ of the dressing over it, add the remainder of the dressing to the salad and serve the salad over the top of the crisp fish. Garnish with the roasted rice powder and dried chillies.
Leftovers of the roasted rice powder and roasted chilli powder will keep in sealed containers for up to 2 weeks.