This is a simple but sophisticated way to serve roasted fish. I first made it when I was craving Asian flavours after a long day cooking and shooting Mediterranean dishes. Now I keep galangal, lemongrass and chillies in the freezer for just such culinary emergencies.
4 whole plate-size barramundi, fins trimmed
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (or to taste), plus more to season
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp dried shrimp
4 slices galangal, about 2mm thick
200g castor sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
2 green chillies, sliced
2 red bullet chillies, sliced
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1 punnet small cherry tomatoes, cut crosswise into chunky rounds
Juice of 3 limes
Steamed rice to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 200C and prepare and cut all ingredients before cooking.
2. Lie the barramundi on a baking tray lined with baking paper or foil and season inside and out with a splash of fish sauce. Roast for about 15 minutes, turning the grill on high for the last 3 or 4 minutes. The flesh should be able to be easily pulled away from the bone with the tip of a knife.
3. While the fish is cooking, pound the garlic, dried shrimp and galangal roughly in a mortar and pestle. Add this to a medium saucepan with the sugar, a splash of water and the lemongrass and bring to a simmer. Cook over high heat until you have a medium-coloured caramel, 6-8 minutes.
4. Take the caramel off the heat, add the chillies, shrimp paste and cherry tomatoes and stir (this stops the caramel burning). The tomatoes will sizzle as they soften.
5. Put the pan back on the heat and bring quickly to the boil. Take pan off the heat and add the fish sauce and lime juice and stir. Taste for balance: it should be sweet but also a little salty, sour and hot. Divide fish among four plates and spoon the sauce over. Serve with rice on the side.
Drink Off-dry riesling.
Tip This is delicious with fillets as well as whole fish.
Styling: Caroline Velik; merchandise: Minimax, The Works, Izzi & Popo.