Whole Thai barbecued snapper

Whole Thai barbecued snapper

Dig In!
Mark Roper

You can buy snapper fillets off the bone but when you’ve cooked a whole fish on the bone, you’ll never go back to just cooking a fillet. The flavour is something else. Gutting and scaling a fish isn’t as scary as you think. Don’t be freaked out about trying new things because once you’ve tried it the first time, it gets easier each time. Remember with Asian food that it’s all about the balance of flavours – sweet, salty, sour, hot. Taste and adjust to suit your palate. Serve with Thai cabbage and snow pea salad with honey peanuts.


Quantity Ingredient
1.5kg whole snapper, scaled and gutted
2 lemongrass stems, cut into 5 cm lengths, white part only
4 garlic cloves, peeled
10 kaffir lime leaves
1 bunch coriander, washed, roots and stems, leaves reserved for garnish
3cm piece galangal or ginger, peeled and roughly sliced
5 spring onions, thinly sliced


Quantity Ingredient
4 limes, juiced
60ml fish sauce
90g grated or shaved palm sugar
3 bird's eye chillies, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce


  1. Preheat the barbecue to high with the hood closed.
  2. Rinse the fish, inside and out, under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Using the back of a knife, gently hit the lemongrass to bruise it. Place the lemongrass, garlic, lime leaves, coriander roots and stems and galangal in the cavity of the fish.
  4. Make 3 slices, 1 cm deep and 5 cm apart, in the thickest part of both sides of the fish.
  5. Tear off a large piece of aluminium foil (larger than the fish) and lay it flat on a work surface. Do the same with a piece of baking paper. Lay the baking paper on top of the foil then place the fish on top of the baking paper. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  6. Tear off another piece of foil a little larger than the first. Cover the fish loosely and crimp the edges to seal the fish inside.
  7. Place the parcel in the barbecue and cook, with the hood closed, for 15 minutes. Flip the parcel over and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  8. Remove the fish and leave it to rest, still wrapped in the foil, for 4-5 minutes. Unwrap the fish to check if it is done. Once you peel the flesh away, the bones should still be blushing pink and slightly opaque.
  9. For the sauce, bring all the ingredients to the boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once boiling, cook for a further minute.
  10. Gently pour the sauce over the cooked fish – pouring boiling liquid over the skin, stops it from having a rubbery consistency. Garnish with the reserved coriander leaves and the sliced spring onions.
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