Baked snapper with instant rice paper sheets
Moderate - You'll be right
Cooking fish can sometimes be difficult as their flesh is delicate and when overcooked can dry out and become tough. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to bake a whole Snapper to sweet and succulent perfection in a marinade of anchovy salt and lemongrass. The Snapper is served in textural instant rice paper sheets with aromatic Vietnamese herbs and dipped in my nuoc mam cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce) for the ultimate rice paper roll experience.
My mum had a knack for overcooking fish and till this day my suspicion is that it was due to her upbringing in Vietnam, where it was common to cook the fish thoroughly to kill off any bacteria. However, with access to an abundance of seafood from our pristine Australian waters, I can confidently recreate this dish to succulent perfection and avoid overcooking the fish at all costs.
When it comes to cooking seafood, I use quite particular techniques which I’ve shared in my other seafood recipes; beer battered prawns, abalone stir fry, crispy egg noodles with abalone and pork and prawn spring rolls, just to name a few. Traditionally in Vietnam, the fish is cooked over coals but in a home setting baking is a great alternative when lighting coals aren't an option. If you do prefer cooking over coals, I recommend keeping the fish at a slight distance from the open coals until almost cooked through, then finish directly over them to achieve that desired crispy skin.
Snapper is a great rice paper roll filling as it’s generally available all year round and is soft but firm and naturally sweet. However, this Vietnamese rice paper roll recipe is quite versatile, so feel free to experiment with other varieties such as flat head, king george whiting, barramundi or garfish, and adjust the cooking times accordingly. To create the perfect balance of textures, serve the delicate fish with structured instant rice paper sheets, crisp cucumber and soft rice vermicelli noodles.
Fish is a great source of protein which makes this rice paper roll variation a regular in our household’s rotation. If you often serve fish at home or would like to have a go at this easy oven baked Snapper, do yourself a favour and try this rice paper roll recipe to experience Vietnamese flavours like no other on any given night.
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into 4-5 cm pieces
2 brown onions, chopped in wedges
1 bunch spring onion stalks
½ teaspoon anchovy salt (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole Snapper, Flathead or Baby Barramundi (500-600g each),
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
2 tablespoons peanuts, crushed (optional)
Spring onion oil:
1 bunch spring onions green tops
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
50ml neutral cooking oil
Nước Mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce):
3 birds eye chillies de-seeded
3 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of premium fish sauce
4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
½ lime juiced
Rice paper rolls:
How to bake fish:
1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Line a tray with baking paper and spread lemongrass, brown onions and spring onion stalks down to create base layer. Season lightly with sea salt.
2. In a small bowl, make a dry rub by mixing the anchovy salt, sea salt, and sugar.
3. Place 3-4 diagonal cuts into the fish on each side, marinate the fish and its cavity with the dry rub, then place on baking tray on top of onions and lemongrass, and finish with a drizzle of oil.
Duncan’s tip: Diagonal cuts help the marinade to penetrate the flesh and also promotes even cooking
4. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until flesh is just cooked through. Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Spring onion oil:
1. In a small bowl, add salt and sugar to finely chopped spring onions, and mix well.
2. In a small pot or milk pan, bring 30ml cooking oil to smoking point.
3. Carefully pour oil onto the spring onions, mix well and set aside.
Vietnamese dipping sauce & rice vermicelli noodles:
1. In a mortar and pestle, crush and pound chillies, garlic and sugar into a paste. Add remaining ingredients and mix well until sugar dissolves and sauce becomes slightly viscous.
2. Bring a large pot of water with a tablespoon of salt to the boil. Add thin rice vermicelli and boil on high for 7-8 mins, then strain and pour into a large bowl of cold water. Immediately portion into small serving-sized bundles then drain in a colander to prevent noodles from sticking together.
Instant rice paper rolls:
1. Place an instant rice paper sheet vertically onto a medium-sized plate. Add a piece of lettuce, some vermicelli noodles, cucumber, a selection of herbs and pieces of baked fish, then roll into an open-ended cigar with firm pressure.
Duncan’s tip: Adding too many ingredients can increase the size of your rice paper roll making it difficult to consume.
2. If using rice paper sheets that require water-dipping, dip in cold water for 10 seconds, then layer your ingredients as above but towards the bottom of the rice paper sheet. Roll over twice away from you, then fold in both ends and roll until the rice paper roll is sealed.
Duncan’s tip: Use a firm but gentle pressure when rolling your rice paper roll. Similar to cradling a bird, you want to apply enough pressure so that it doesn’t fly away but not too much that you could hurt the bird.