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Easy Thai Crispy Fish With Tamarind Sauce Recipe

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Thai crispy fish with tamarind sauce recipe is hands down THE BEST you’ll try. Pan-fried to perfection, this crispy Thai fish is drizzled with a sticky, sweet, and sour tamarind sauce that’s loaded with a garlic kick, so good!

Thai crispy fish with tamarind sauce drenched in a sweet and spicy sauce, garnished with red chilies and cilantro, served with jasmine rice.

Can’t get enough of Thai whole fish recipes? Try a refreshing Thai steamed fish!

Thai crispy fish with tamarind sauce

For this Thai crispy whole fish with tamarind sauce, I used tilapia, which I purchased fresh at the local food market in our rural village. But you can totally switch it up with your favorite fish – bass, snapper, trout, feel free to experiment!

Coated with cornflour, the fish sizzles away in a pan until perfectly crunchy.

Crispy Thai fish with tamarind sauce in a fish-shaped dish, topped with fresh and dried chilies and cilantro. Served with rice on a separate dish.

After deep-frying, we drizzle the whole thing in an irresistible sauce of sweet palm sugar and tangy tamarind paste.

This Thai crispy fish is sticky and irresistibly saucy, it’s downright delicious!

Close-up of Thai fried fish with tamarind sauce, with a spoon lifting tender white fish flesh.

I love to make it spicy by topping it off with lots of spicy Thai chilies, both fresh and dried chili peppers, and a bunch of garlic.

Why try this Thai fried fish recipe

  • Thai restaurant quality at home: No more takeout, this whole fish with tamarind sauce is better than what you’d find dining out.
  • The best spicy Thai fish recipe: If you love spicy food, this dish will leave you reaching for more and more. It’s spicy food with lots of other flavors as well.
  • Authentic Thai food: This is our family recipe for crispy fried fish with tamarind sauce. We often whip it up at family gatherings and my little niece and nephew absolutely love it!
  • Versatile: You can make this recipe your own by choosing a different type of fish or altering the spiciness. You can even use fish fillets if you don’t like the idea of deep-frying fish (head included). Choose different kind of chilies or even throw in some lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves.

This is THE BEST Thai crispy fish recipe EVER, trust me.

PS, if you love fried fish, you’ll love this pan fried catfish no breading too!

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Ingredients for Thai spicy fish recipe arranged on a marble counter, featuring a whole fish with tamarind sauce, rice flour, garlic, dried chilies, and more.
  • Fish – Grab a flaky fish like tilapia or any white fish. Cod, halibut, sea bass, and snapper are all viable options.
  • Tamarind paste – Tamarind gives the sauce a tangy, zesty punch you just can’t get enough of.
  • Palm sugar – Palm sugar gives the tamarind-based sauce a caramel-like sweetness that sets this recipe apart. If not on hand, you can sub with brown sugar, but the outcome will be different.
  • Fish sauce – Fish sauce is a staple in Thai cuisine to add a salty and umami flavor.
  • Dried red chilies – Dried chilies are spicier than their fresh counterpart. Additionally, they add a smoky tone. Add to taste.
  • Red chilies -You can use Thai chilies like Jinda chilies, or opt for milder ones like jalapeños or even bell peppers for the little ones. You’ll get all the color and none of the heat.
  • Cornflour – Cornflour coats the fish with a crispy layer, and it doubles as a thickener for the sauce.
  • Water
  • Garlic

Cooking instructions

Prepare fish

Top-view of cornflour coated whole fish on a banana leaf.

1. Thoroughly clean the fish with cold water, both inside and out.

2. Pat the fish dry completely to prevent oil splatter during frying.

3. Slice a few deep, diagonal cuts across the flesh of the fish (not too deep).

4. Coat the fish evenly with cornflour.

Deep-fry fish

Close-up of a whole fish being deep-fried in a wok pan.

1. Pour oil into a deep-frying pan, enough to submerge one side of the fish at a time, and heat it over a medium heat.

2. When the oil reaches temperature, fry each side for approx 8 minutes until golden and crispy. Adjust frying time based on the fish’s size.

3. After cooking, use a large spatula to carefully remove the fish from the oil and place it in a colander to drain any excess oil.

Make taMARIND SAUCE

Step-by-step preparation of tamarind sauce, with a mortar and pestle crushing chilies and garlic, and a wok pan sizzling the sauce.

1. Crush the chilies and garlic with a mortar and pestle.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water. This will be used later to thicken the chili garlic sauce.

3. Warm 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the crushed chilies and garlic until golden and fragrant.

4. Add palm sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and a splash of water.

5. Stir in the cornflour mixture until the sauce thickens to a glossy consistency.

Serve

Transfer the fish to a serving dish and pour over the tamarind sauce. Top with fresh and dried chilies if you want to make it spicy.

After making this recipe, you can try pla pao next, it’s an authentic grilled fish recipe – or hor mok pla, a unique Thai fish curry.

Kitchen tools

  • Deep-fryer or large, heavy skillet
  • Cutting board and sharp knife
  • Slotted spoon or large spatula
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Wire rack
  • Saucepan

Tips for the best Thai tamarind fish

  • Use a neutral oil with high smoke point: Canola, vegetable oil, or sunflower oil is perfect. With a neutral oil, the flavor of your fish can shine through.
  • Maintain the right oil temperature: Keep the oil temperature hovering around 350-375°F (175-190°C). You can use a kitchen thermometer if you want to.
  • Use a large wok: Use a large wok that fits a whole fish.
  • Flip carefully: When flipping the fish, be mindful of the hot oil. If needed, use two spatulas.

How to serve

Transfer your fried fish to a dish that fits its size. Drizzle it with the sauce and top if off with chilies and optionally fresh herbs like cilantro or chopped green onions.

Serve with rice, a lime wedge, or even some fresh vegetables like yard long beans and Thai eggplants on the side.

This fried fish pairs great with Thai shrimp lettuce wraps, offering a refreshing note. It comes with a spicy Thai peanut sauce you just can’t get enough of.

How to store and reheat

I suggest eating Thai crispy fish in one go, since the fish is deep-fried, the leftovers will become soggy over time.

Let your leftovers cool down to room temperature and transfer them to an airtight container. Store the leftover tamarind sauce in a separate airtight container and keep it in the fridge.

Reheating instructions: Reheat in an oven for about 10–15 minutes, or pan-fry until warm.

Did you know?

In Thailand, this dish is known as pla tub tim rad prik. It’s a popular Thai dish that’s enjoyed as a larger meal, often with the family. In my family, we pair it with Thai sticky rice and lots of other dishes like spicy salads and noodles.

Frequently asked questions

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, this recipe is free from soy sauce. But make sure to double-check the labeling of your ingredients, as some brands may add fillets or other ingredients that introduce gluten.

Do I have to use a whole fish?

No. You can choose to use fish fillets to make the frying process easier and cleaner.

Do I have to use a mortar and pestle?

No, you can also mix the garlic and chilies with a food processor or crush and slice them with your knife.

Is this recipe spicy?

This is supposed to be a spicy recipe. However, you can adjust the spiciness by choosing a mild type of chilies.

More Thai fish recipes you’ll love

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Easy Thai Crispy Fish With Tamarind Sauce Recipe

Holding a piece of Thai crispy fish with tamarind sauce in a golden spoon above a plate filled with fish, with white rice and a small mortar and pestle in the background.
Soft and tender fish flesh, covered in a sweet and spicy tamarind sauce with hints of garlic.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Main Course
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

  • 35 ounces fish tilapia
  • cornflour to coat your fish
  • oil for frying
  • a handful of chilies fresh and dried, to taste
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour to thicken the sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water to thicken the sauce
  • 4,5 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 5 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 7 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 0.33 fluid ounces water

Instructions

PREPARE FISH

  • Thoroughly clean the fish with cold water, both inside and out.
  • Pat the fish dry completely to prevent oil splatter during frying.
  • Slice a few deep diagonal cuts across the flesh of the fish (not too deep).
  • Coat the fish evenly with cornflour.

DEEP-FRY FISH

  • Pour oil into a deep-frying pan, enough to submerge one side of the fish at a time, and heat it over a medium heat.
  • When the oil reaches temperature, fry each side for approx 8 minutes until golden and crispy. Adjust frying time based on the fish’s size.
  • After cooking, use a large spatula to carefully remove the fish from the oil and place it in a colander to drain any excess oil.

MAKE TAMARIND SAUCE

  • Crush the chilies and garlic with a mortar and pestle.
  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water. This will be used later to thicken the sauce.
  • Warm 3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the crushed chilies and garlic until golden and fragrant.
  • Add palm sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, and a splash of water.
  • Stir in the cornflour mixture until the sauce thickens to a glossy consistency.

SERVE

  • Transfer the fish to a serving dish and pour over the tamarind sauce. Top with fresh and dried chilies if you want to make it spicy.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • You can use tilapia like I did or other white fish flesh.
  • Top with chilies to taste.

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