Fish with lime and chillies

Fish with lime and chillies

Leanne Kitchen

Going by the name of pla neung ma nao, this steamed dish epitomises the simplest and most elegant aspects of Thai cooking. A few key flavourings and some gentle steam are all that’s required – oh, and the freshest whole fish you can lay your hands on! Score the fish flesh through to the bone to encourage even cooking, and stuff the aromatics well into the cavity. This helps the flavour penetrate the fish and creates flavoursome juices in the process. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.


Quantity Ingredient
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bunches coriander roots and stems, scrubbed and thinly sliced, leaves reserved
8 medium green chillies, thinly sliced
100ml lime juice
100ml fish sauce
1 tablespoon shaved palm sugar
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1kg whole coral trout, snapper or other firm white-fleshed fish
125ml Chicken stock
or 125ml water
lime wedges, to serve


  1. In a food processor or blender, process the garlic, coriander roots and stems, and chillies until a coarse paste forms. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, palm sugar and white pepper and stir to combine. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle.
  2. Put the fish on a chopping board and score each side at 2 cm intervals, making sure you cut through to the bone.
  3. Evenly rub the paste over the fish, ensuring it goes into the cavity and scored sides. Put the fish on a large heatproof plate and pour over the chicken stock.
  4. Put the plated fish in a large steamer basket, place in a deep wok half-filled with boiling water, then cover the wok and steam for 15–18 minutes. Alternatively, cook it in a fish kettle in a 180°C oven for 30 minutes. You can check if the fish is cooked by piercing the flesh behind its head – it should be opaque and just cooked through.
  5. Carefully transfer the steamed fish to a serving platter. Spoon over the juices, garnish with the reserved coriander leaves and serve with the lime wedges.
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