Chile Fried Fish


  • 1 ¼ oz. tamarind paste 
  • 2 tbsp. small dried shrimp, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, drained 
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 red Holland chile, stemmed and roughly chopped 
  • ½ small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1½ tsp. dried shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 small branzino, black sea bass, or bluefish (about 12 oz. each), gutted and cleaned
  • 2 lime wedges, for serving



  • Bring tamarind and ½ cup water to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over high heat, stirring until paste is dissolved; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl, discard solids, and set tamarind sauce aside.
  • Put shrimp, garlic, chile, and onion in a small food processor, and process until smooth; set chile mixture aside.
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a 12° skillet over medium-high heat; add dried shrimp paste, and, using a spoon, mash paste with oil. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add chile mixture; cook, stirring, until mixture is no longer raw, 4 - 6 minutes. Add tamarind sauce, sugar, paprika, chili sauce, and salt, and cook, stirring, until thick, 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer chile paste to a bowl.
  • Wipe skillet clean, add remaining oil, and return to high heat. Using a spoon, stuff fish cavities with chile paste, and season with salt and pepper. Fry fish in skillet, turning once, until cooked through, 10 - 12 minutes. Squeeze lime over fish.