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Salted Lemongrass Hake Vietnamese Made Easy by Thuy Diem Pham (Quadrille, £22), Photography © Laura Edwards
March 2024
Reading time 2 Minutes

This is pure nostalgia for me; growing up, my grandma would make this all the time and it was a firm favourite. This style of cooking fish is popular for a few reasons: the infusion of salt means it keeps for longer and, of course, it's delicious

This recipe only uses a quarter of the traditional quantity of salt (so you know what to do if you're a salt lover). I've chosen hake here because the meaty texture works perfectly and the natural flavours of the fish really shine through. Cod, bass or sea bream also work very well, and if you have a good local Vietnamese supermarket, you can even try the traditional red tilapia. Whichever you choose, I highly recommend serving it with a side of rice and a light vegetable stir-fry or salad.
Cooking time:
15 minutes plus marinating
  • 2 hake fillets, each 300g, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 4 Thai basil sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced into strips
  • Lemongrass chilli oil or store-bought chilli oil, to serve (optional)
  • For the Marinade
  • 4 lemongrass stalks, minced
  • 1 red chilli, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 chicken stock cube, crumbled

Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl, then rub evenly over the hake fillets. Cover and put in the fridge for one hour to allow the flavours to soak in, bringing them out to room temperature 30 minutes before cooking.

Add the oil to a frying pan and bring to a low heat. Sprinkle the cornflour evenly across both sides of the hake fillets, then place them immediately in the pan. Keep at a low heat and fry for five minutes, turning over halfway through.

Cover with a lid and cook for a further two minutes, then remove the lid and cook for one more minute. Use a fork to check if the fillets are ready: if it pulls out easily and the meat is white, it’s ready; if not, then cook for a further minute and repeat the test.

Remove the fish from the pan and, leaving the pan over a low heat, throw in the Thai basil leaves for 10–15 seconds, depending on the size of the leaves. Serve the hake with the fried leaves and spring onions, as well as jasmine rice and chilli oil, if using.

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