Crispy Whole Red Snapper

Served on a banana leaf, with tempura squash blossoms, sticky rice and a chili dipping sauce, this dish is great for a special occasion…or a Tuesday.

Crispy whole red snapper with chili dipping sauce
Photograph by National Geographic / Lisa Corson


1 large whole fish, scaled and gutted (we used a red snapper, but any fresh meaty whole fish will work wonderfully with this preparation)
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, smashed
2 kaffir lime leaves
¼ cup Laos basil, cut into fine julienne (can also use Thai basil)
fryer oil
steamed sticky rice (to garnish)

For dipping sauce:

2 tbsp fish sauce
1 Laos bird chili, sliced thin (Thai chili can be substituted)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp cane sugar
6 tbsp water
1 tsp minced garlic

For tempura:

squash blossoms
12 oz ice cold soda water
1 1/2 cups rice flour plus more for dusting blossoms
pinch of salt


1. Preheat a fryer or large pot filled with oil to 325F degrees.

2. Take the whole fish and make ½ inch cuts to score the skin on both sides.

3. Stuff the cavity with ginger, garlic, kaffir lime, basil and lemongrass and seal with a skewer or long toothpick to close.

4. Season fish all over with salt and pepper and dredge very lightly in rice flour.

5. Carefully lower the fish into the hot oil and fry until skin is golden brown and crisp and flesh is moist and cooked through.

6. For dipping sauce, combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Adjust seasoning for saltiness and acidity if necessary.

7. For tempura, in a mixing bowl, combine soda water and 1 ½ cups flour together and mix lightly with chopsticks. Batter needs to be made right before preparation and used immediately.

8. Lightly dust blossoms with rice flour, quickly dip in tempura batter and fry at 350F degrees until crisp.

9. Immediately drain on a resting rack and season with salt.

To serve:

1. On a large platter, lay out a banana leaf and place fish on top.

2. Garnish with tempura flower blossoms, steamed sticky rice, and dipping sauce.