To anyone who ever said, I love seafood, if only I knew how to cook it…this one is for you.
Sea bass is an incredible fish for Thai curry because its richness isn’t totally lost in the coconut broth. It’s not as fishy as salmon curry so I think bok choy and carrots are all you need to round out the fish.
My quest for Thai flavors was ignited several years ago when I got married in Thailand, and this dish brings me back to the land of smiles. I’m excited for you to try it because it’s one of the easier Thai recipes, requiring only a few everyday ingredients.
Fish Curry Ingredients
This recipe will work with any fish, but I recommend black sea bass with the skin on. You will also need canned coconut milk (either full fat or light will work). In Thai cuisine, kaffir lime leaves are essential, and I have a tree in my backyard. You may find dried leaves in the spice section of ethnic markets — I even found some online that are grown in California.
Best Tips for Cooking Sea Bass
I highly recommend searing the fish skin-side down until brown and crispy. To do this, you need a hot pan with oil and a bit of patience. Once you set the fish down in the pan, don’t move it! Leave it alone for at least 4 minutes (longer if your fish is more than 1 1/2 inches thick).
If you don’t have a non-stick pan, a trick I learned in restaurants is to work a little oil under the fish by gently lifting a bit at a time with a spatula. Oil helps the fish release without tearing. Don’t worry if it sticks a bit. This technique takes practice.
As always with seafood, remove the fish at least 30 minutes prior to cooking so the proteins relax a bit and really season it with salt and pepper for optimal flavor.
Once the fish is cooked through, let it rest while you make the coconut curry in the same pan. Since you only saute the shallot and ginger for 30 seconds, it’s best to have all your chopping done ahead of time with this recipe.
A Hot Pan is Key to Achieving Maximum Flavor
I’ve made this dish twice in the past week with different results. I used a cut from the belly the first time, used a hotter pan, and achieved crispier skin (more flavor in the curry). The second time, my pan wasn’t as hot, and the cook on the fish wasn’t perfect (less flavor in the curry).
So, for you to have success, please really sear that skin (remember at least 4 minutes in a hot pan) and salt throughout cooking because the flavor really comes out with salt. Of course, if you want to incorporate chili, I won’t object! Spiciness is essential in Thai cooking, and this dish could use a little heat.
More Seafood Recipes For You to Tackle
- Easy Grilled Octopus
- Saffron Risotto with Clams and Andouille Sausage
- Halibut Foil Packs with White Wine Sauce
Thai Sea Bass
- 2 tbsp olive oil or refined coconut oil
- 1 pound sea bass, cut into 4-oz portions skin-on
- sea salt and pepper
- 1 medium/large shallot finely minced
- 2 tsp finely grated ginger
- 2 heads bok choy ends trimmed
- 2 carrots peeled and sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 can coconut milk (light or full fat)
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- fresh chili optional for heat
- In a large skillet, warm 3 tbsp oil over medium heat. Season the fillet front to back with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmering, cook the fish skin-side down without moving for 4 minutes to get a nice crisp skin. Lower the heat a bit if you see smoke. Flip and cook the other side for 2-4 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove and rest on a plate (skin-side up).
- Return the skillet to the heat, saute the shallot and ginger with a pinch of salt, stirring constantly for 10 seconds. Add the bok choy, carrots, and kaffir lime leaves and sauté over medium low heat for 1 minute.
- Add coconut milk, raise heat a bit to medium to simmer for 5 minutes. Portion the broth and vegetables into bowls and top with the fish (skin-side up). Season with red pepper flakes or fresh chili pepper if you want a little spiciness to cut through the richness of the broth.
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