We had Salt Baked Fish on Sunday. It was Chef’s idea. He wanted to do this the week before but he couldn’t find some suitable fresh fish while shopping for the groceries. Last Sunday, he thought perhaps we can try using a Red Tilapia instead because it was live and swimming in the large aquarium at the fishmonger.
Have you tried Salt Baked Fish before? This is totally Chef’s recipe, not mine. I didn’t cook it. He did but I am blogging about it since it was one of the best tasting natural fish dish I had. see also : Quick & Simple: Beef Tamarind Stir-fry
What kind of fish
A large fish like Sea bass, Tilapia, Garoupa or any whole fish for steaming. Get it cleaned gutted but LEAVE THE SCALE ON. The fish, preferably should be about 2-4kgs. We bought 2 live Red Tilapia of about 1.6kg each. Fresh ones are better so that you don’t get that mud-murky smell for this type of fish. The reason for leaving the scale on is so that it acts as a water-proof protective layer for the fish and the salt mixture does not actually get absorbed into your fish making it salty. On the contrary, cooking fish is similar to steaming, making it a very tender and moist dish, not to forget sealed in it’s natural juices.
You will need
A large 2 kg FRESH whole fish, cleaned, gutted but leave scales on
3 large egg whites (more if you have bigger fish)
1.5 kg Coarse salt (more if you have bigger fish)
wedges of lemon (to squeeze on the fish upon serving)
Lightly marinate your fish with some salt and pepper, around and insides. You may add your favourite herb like rosemary or lemon salt if you like. Or you may prefer to do it the chinese herb style like adding Wolfberries/Goji Berries (Kei Chi).
In a mixing bowl, whisk your egg whites till stiff peaks. Add the salt into it and mix well. On a large shallow pan, place a third of this egg white mixture on the pan and lay the fish on it. Spread the rest of the mixture over the egg and the sides, sealing the fish like a crust all over.
Preheat your oven at 200 deg C. Bake your fish for 35 minutes. At the end of 35 minutes, use a knife to cut a small part of the salt crust (it should form a hard crust now) and gently lift up a small layer of the scaled skin. Your fish should be cooked and flakes easily by now. If your fish is very big and is stil uncooked, place a small piece of aluminium foil over the cut up part, cover it back with the crust and continue baking it for another 10 minutes.
This fish is soo tender and succulent… No, you don’t really taste salt in this because the salt acts like a vacuum keeping heat in and not as a marinade. But cooking this way, the fish retains its natural juices so it’s very yummy. see also : Basic Lean ground beef with Mushrooms and onions
When out from the oven, it looks like this.
To serve, you must remove the crust. The crust becomes hard like a clay, easy to remove.
With both crusts removed, it should look like these. Fish with skin, scales on.
Using a knife, gently remove the top part of the skin with the scales, revealing a moist layer of delicate fish.
Looking closely, the fish looks very glossy. But it is not from any oil nor seasoning, but from it’s own juices! This fish is only seasoned with salt and pepper, lightly. No oil – very healthy dish!
BURP! okay, we made a mess by digging in.
No need to turn the fish over to get to the other side. Just dig into the other side, but remove the bones with care.