Crispy fried elephant fish with ginger fish sauce

Crispy fried elephant fish with ginger fish sauce

The Food of Vietnam
Alan Benson

I was introduced to this dish by my cousins who live on the banks of the Mekong. They use a species known as elephant fish, found only in the Mekong River. Elephant fish is prized for its delicate scales, which puff and crisp up when flash-fried — the crunch is amazing. Back in Sydney I tried to recreate this dish with every local fish available, but failed because the scales were too thick and tough — impossible to chew. But recently I asked my fishmonger to deliver some small silver bream and it worked perfectly. Be sure to tell your fishmonger not to scale the fish, and to be gentle with it, as you want as many scales intact as possible.


Quantity Ingredient
1 litre vegetable oil
1 whole elephant fish or silver bream, cleaned and gutted, but not scaled
red chilli strips, to garnish
coriander or spring onion, to garnish

Ginger fish sauce

Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon garlic, diced
1 tablespoon red chilli, diced
20 cm knob fresh ginger, pounded to a paste using a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon lime juice


  1. To make the ginger fish sauce, combine the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar and 125 ml water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. Once cooled, stir in the garlic, chilli, ginger and lime juice. Set aside.
  2. Add the oil to a large wok and heat to 180°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 15 seconds. Carefully slide the whole fish into the oil and cook over high heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the fish to a platter. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of the ginger fish sauce and garnish with the red chilli strips and coriander or spring onion. Serve with steamed jasmine rice and the remaining ginger fish sauce.


  • You can use whole snapper as a substitute; however the snapper will have to be scaled for this recipe.
The Food of Vietnam
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