Roasting a whole fish can still feel daunting for me, and I'm not sure why. I cook whole chickens and five-pound hunks of pork without much issue. But as Pat Tanumihardja describes in this NPR story, much of that might have to do with the fact that I didn't grow up with much whole-fish dishes in my life. "It turns out that many Americans (my husband included) get a little queasy at the sight of head and tail on the table," she writes. I'm not exactly squeamish, but I do feel much more comfortable with fillets.
What really sold me on this recipe was the sauce. I imagined it, sweet, spicy, and syrupy, coating every crevice of the fish. And the best part was that most of the ingredients were just Asian pantry staples that could be found at most Asian grocery stores. I had to buy some fresh ginger and garlic, but other than that I was ready to go.
Oh, and I needed a fish. The author recommends trout, mackerel, or branzino. My local Korean market had a great deal going on with mackerel, and I managed to snag one for less than 5 bucks. The sauce did turn out as well as I had imagined, but it's the crisp skin of the fish that I really loved. The fish gets a high-heat broil in the last couple of minutes, and that really adds a load of flavor. It doesn't make for the most elegant preparation, but that didn't really bother me.
- 2 pounds fish (like mackerel or trout), scaled and gutted
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (sambal oelek)
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rinse fish under cold water, and then dry with some paper towels. Sprinkle a bit of canola oil on a baking sheet, and set the fish on top. Make four diagonal slashes on each side of the fish. Sprinkle the salt on the fish. Place baking sheet in the oven and cook for about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together the rest of the ingredients for the sauce.
Remove the baking sheet with the fish and turn the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the sauce on to both sides of the fish. Return the fish to the oven, and cook for about 3 minutes.
Remove the baking sheet with the fish. Turn on the broiler. Slide the fish under the broiler and cook for about 1 minute for each side. The skin should get crisp and slightly blacken.