Chargrilled salt-crusted lemongrass fish

Chargrilled salt-crusted lemongrass fish

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

Tilapia lives in freshwater ecosystems and is found in great abundance in the Mekong River. It has a mild buttery flavour, is high in protein, has five times less fat than lean pork or beef, and has very firm skin, which makes it ideal for chargrilling. This dish is found grilling throughout the streets and markets of Vientiane. After stuffing the fish and coating it in salt, local cooks tie the fish between two bamboo sticks before placing it on the chargrill. This keeps the fish enclosed, and also makes it easier to turn over. Local ladies believe this is the best dish to eat while pregnant.


Quantity Ingredient
4 lemongrass stems, chopped, white part only
1 large handful dill, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
800g whole black tilapia or barramundi, gutted and cleaned, but left unscaled
35g sea salt flakes, for coating
400g glutinous rice, soaked in cold water overnight, (see note)

Tamarind dipping sauce

Quantity Ingredient
125ml tamarind water, (see note)
1 tablespoon ­fish sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh galangal, pounded
1/2 teaspoon garlic, pounded
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon ­coriander, finely sliced


  1. Mix the tamarind dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.
  2. Soak a bamboo skewer in cold water for 30 minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the lemongrass, dill and spring onion. Stuff€ the mixture into the cavity of the fish, then secure the opening using the bamboo skewer. Now rub the whole fish with all the sea salt, coating it well.
  4. Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue chargrill plate to medium– high. Chargrill the fish for 10–15 minutes on each side, or until cooked through — the scales and skin should peel off€ ‰easily.
  5. Before serving the fish at the table, peel away and discard the scales and skin.
  6. Serve the fish hot, with sticky rice and the dipping sauce.


  • To make the sticky rice, drain and rinse the soaked rice in cold water three times. Pour water into the bottom of your steamer and line the steaming section with muslin. Place the rinsed rice on the cloth, cover with the lid and set on the stovetop over high heat. Steam for 15 …minutes, then †flip the rice over. Cook for another 5–15 …minutes, or until the rice becomes translucent; take a small bite to check it is soft and chewy. (Sticky rice generally takes about 20–30 minutes of steaming all up.)


  • To make tamarind water, soak 100 g tamarind pulp in 400 ml boiling water. Break it up a little with a whisk, then leave until cool enough to handle. Using your hands, break the mixture into a thick paste. Pass the mixture through a sieve; you should get about 375 ml tamarind water.
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