Grilled sardines with sweet fish sauce

Grilled sardines with sweet fish sauce

New Thai Food
Jeremy Simons

This can be shared as part of a meal, but also makes a great snack. Alternate a piece of crisp sardine with the crunch of green mango, while the caramelised garnishes provide another textural explosion.


Quantity Ingredient
6 fresh whole sardines
splash fish sauce
80ml canola oil
2 tablespoons Crisp-fried garlic or red Asian shallots, (both garlic and shallots)
4 long red or green chillies, deep-fried and seeded
1/4 green mango, peeled, stoned and cut into wedges, to garnish

Sweet fish sauce

Quantity Ingredient
1 x 500 g disc palm sugar, crushed
1 lemongrass stem, bruised along its length
1/2 red onion, sliced
4 kaffir lime leaves
2.5 cm piece fresh galangal, sliced
4 coriander roots, scraped and cleaned
100ml Tamarind
100ml fish sauce


  1. To make the sweet fish sauce, melt the palm sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add 60 ml water to help break down the sugar. Simmer until dissolved, then add the lemongrass, onion, lime leaves, galangal and coriander roots and bring to the boil. Cook for about 10–12 minutes until the sugar is lightly caramelised. The ingredients will release some water into the mixture, so keep reducing until the sugar thickens again. Reduce the heat, stir in the tamarind and fish sauce, taking care as the mixture will spit. Mix well and remove from the heat immediately. Strain, then set aside to cool. It should have a honey-like consistency and taste sweet, salty and sour. If it has solidified by the time you’re ready to serve, return the sauce to the heat, add a little more fish sauce and tamarind and allow to soften again.
  2. To debone the sardines, cut along the underside of each fish. Remove the guts. Wash the fish and place it back on the chopping board or work surface, belly side up. Gently press down on the fish with your thumb along the length of its backbone to flatten. To make the backbone easy to pull out, break the bone closest to the head. Now gently pull out the backbone and ribcage. Flatten the fish so that it is butterflied, with the head and tail still intact.
  3. Dip the sardines in the fish sauce to coat.
  4. Heat a hotplate or chargrill pan on medium–high. Heat the oil and place the sardines, skin side down, on the hotplate or chargrill and cook until a golden brown colour, for about 2 minutes. Carefully flip over with a spatula and seal the other side for about 1 minute. Sardines cook quickly, so keep an eye on them.
  5. Transfer the sardines to a serving plate and sprinkle generously with the crisp-fried garlic and shallots. Break the chillies over the top, drizzle over the sweet fish sauce and garnish with the green mango wedges.
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