Thai Food

Salt Baked Fish – Moist Thai Salt Crusted Fish

Fried salted fish is common in local Thai markets and sold by Thai street vendors. Fish cooked in salt, placed on a grill or skewer and then placed over large trays of glowing coals, is part of the local Thai scene.

If you prefer fried fish, you can also check out our recipe for fried sea bass with mango salad!

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Video on cooking salted fish in the oven

Link to the video if it does not load properly on your computer.

Origin of fried salted fish

Records show that the Egyptians and the Chinese used coarse salt to preserve fish thousands of years ago.

Merchant ships that sailed to southern Europe needed provisions that could be kept for a long time, so on those long voyages they cooked with salted fish.

Fried salted fish tastes fantastic. There is no doubt that fish prepared in this way found its way into the kitchens of the countries they visited – Greece, Portugal and southern Italy, where the first traces of recipes for this method can be found.

It also followed overland traders to Southeast Asia and can now be seen everywhere.

Thai salted fish with seafood sauce

Why do you cook fish in salt?

Salt is an essential seasoning for any salty dish, and fried fish is no exception.

When fish is preserved in salt, the flesh is protected by the skin and scales, which in turn are protected by a layer of salt to reduce the risk of burning.

In addition, salt is an excellent insulator and therefore retains the heat in the fish, while still retaining the moisture.

Because the salt absorbs the steam created in the fish during cooking, it also adds a little flavor to the fish.

Moist and juicy salted fish is best served with jasmine rice or steamed rice noodles and a sauce to dip seafood in.

Surprisingly, just the right amount of salt flavors the meat, which also stays pleasantly moist as the steam is captured by the salt and fish scales, and the scales are held in place by the salt, which hardens into a crust.

The result is a perfectly cooked or grilled fish, moist, well seasoned and juicy, ready to be eaten.

What kind of salt should I use?

Cooking fish in salt does not require the best quality salt. You will be using a lot of salt compared to your normal cooking needs. So cheap coarse salt flakes are ideal.

Table salt is a poor choice because its fine texture means it does not form the desired salt crust.

For fish cooked in salt, the salt crust should enclose the scales and limit the release of moisture. It is not necessary to completely seal the fish, but a decent cover is necessary.

Use coarse sea salt or flake salt for the salt crust.

What spices can be used to stuff a whole fish?

All over the world, fish are stuffed with herbs after the intestines have been removed from the abdominal cavity.

The starters are removed by splitting the belly or by cutting under the head of the fish and removing it with the fingers of the fishmonger.

In all cases, the abdomen is washed with water and then filled with herbs.

You will see a wide range of herbs used in different recipes, such as lemon, mint, dill, parsley, etc.

In Thailand, the most commonly used herbs are galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, as they leave a very pleasant aroma and gently absorb the fish from within.

1. Whole fish, 2. Coarse sea salt, 3. Plain flour, 4. Rice noodles, 5. Lemongrass, 6. Galangal, 7 years old. Kaffir lime leaves, 8. Salad Extras

Which fish should I use?

We like whole white fish like sea bass, but we’ve also had success with whole salmon. Mackerel and other fish with thin skin probably won’t work well enough, but we haven’t really tried it yet. If you do, let us know your results in the comments.

The fish should be gutted, but ask the fishmonger not to remove the scales, as these are part of the insulation needed to protect the tender, juicy meat.

How to choose the freshest whole fish

Choosing the freshest fish is easy if you know what to look for.

In Thailand, the local markets offer live fish, so we know it’s fresh. If the fish is no longer alive, follow these tips:

  1. Check your eyes. The eyes of a fresh fish will be quite bright and glassy. The longer the exposure or storage time, the cloudier the eyes – a sort of milky white, glassy appearance. Frozen fish that are thawed for sale also have cloudy eyes.
  2. Check the smell. The fish smells more and more like fish as it goes on. Fresh fish smells as clean and salty as the sea. Therefore, the expression is a little suspect, i.e., not quite right or suspicious.
  3. Check the skin. The skin and scales must be shiny and have a slightly metallic appearance.
  4. Touch the skin. Make sure it’s not too viscous. Stale and poorly preserved fish will have a slippery coating.
  5. Check the flexibility. Pick up the fish and move it. It shouldn’t be as stiff as a board.
  6. Open the gills. Take out the gills a little and check if the lamellae (the fibrous parts of the gills) have a nice dark red colour.

Look for clear eyes, skin that is not too thin, elasticity and nice dark red gills, all indicators of a fresh fish.

How long do you cook the fish in a salt crust?

Preheat the oven as usual, in this case to 170°C (340°F).

The size of your fish has a big impact on the cooking time, as does the temperature of your oven and its efficiency. If you want technical information, use a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish and cook the fish until the temperature reaches 63°C (145°F).

However, this method is very forgiving, and the fish doesn’t dry out or cook too easily, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to cook it a little longer. It takes 15 to 20 minutes per side to cook 1 pound (500 g) of fish and 25 minutes per side to cook 2 pounds of fish.

You can cook at a higher temperature and shorten the cooking time, but these are the settings we use because the longer time allows the spices to soak in a bit more.

Step-by-step instructions for salted baked fish

Step 1 – Prepare the oven or grill

Prepare the oven and heat it to 170°C / 340°F

If you use the oven, we like to bake the fish on open oven racks so that the air can circulate around it. The disadvantage is that during the cooking process the salt is released with a small amount of fish juice.

Line the bottom of the pan with foil or a baking sheet for easy cleanup later. Mount the rack on the middle shelf.

If you want, you can fry the fish in the pan. In this case, cover the pan with aluminum foil for easy cleaning.

Preheat the oven or turn on the coals of the grill while the fish is cooking.

You won’t be wrapping the fish in foil, so expect some contamination from salts and fish juices during cooking and cook accordingly.

Clean and wash your fish and then pat it dry.

Step 2 – Preparation of fish

Follow the tips above to choose the freshest fish. Ask the fishmonger to remove the intestines, either by opening them under the head to take them out or, more simply, by opening the belly. Do not remove the shell.

Wash the fish thoroughly inside and out and pat it dry. The fish must be very clean and all the guts must be well cleaned, otherwise it will have a negative taste of cooked meat.

Filling fish with herbs for a pure taste and a light herbal infusion

Step 3 – Seasoning

Coarsely chop the stalks of lemongrass, or better yet, squeeze the stalks before chopping to bruise the leaves and release the oils that help release the flavor.

Cut the galangal into thin strips, and tear the kaffir leaves if necessary.

You can also add other herbs, slices of lemon or lime, dill for the salmon, basil or other herbs of your choice. Understand that spices do not add much flavor, but rather remove or hide the flavor from the skin of the stomach cavity and leave a nice clean taste.

Another benefit of spices is that they reduce the smell that lingers after baking.

Packing of fish with salt

Step 4 – Salt

Put coarse sea salt in a bowl and add flour while stirring to form a salt mixture. Pour in a little water to make a wet salt mixture that will stick to the fish scales through the flour.

Some recipes call for beaten egg whites to help the salt stick to the skin of the fish, but beating the egg whites into the salt mixture often makes the final dish quite brown, which spoils the look – and eggs are expensive!

You can also rub a thin layer of olive oil on your skin to help the salt adhere better. We’re not worried!

Lightly moisten the skin of the fish (or oil it) and then dab the salt mixture in a layer all over the skin. One or two thin coats here and there won’t matter.

Turn the fish over and repeat the process on the other side, picking up any salt that may have fallen over the side.

The salt should cover the fish.

Moist and juicy salted fish is best served with jasmine rice or steamed rice noodles and a sauce to dip seafood in.

Step 5 – Cooking and serving

Place the fish on an oven rack, grill or baking sheet and bake at 170°C for 15-25 minutes on each side, depending on the size of the fish.

After cooking, serve it. Break the salt crust by breaking it with a knife and peeling the salt off with the skin down to the juicy flesh of the fish.

You can use kitchen scissors to cut off the skin and discard it as you eat the fish. Also remove the small bones on both sides of the fish.

After you’ve eaten one side, you can remove the bones to expose the other half, or flip the fish over and repeat the process, but the sailors among your guests will frown.

Serve with freshly steamed jasmine rice or traditional rice noodles, seasoned with a tasty green seafood sauce or a spicier red sauce, or both if you prefer. It’s so good!

Delicious and juicy Thai fish, salt-cooked

Thai salted fish recipe

Simple print recipe, selectable with or without photos to save your ink

Fried saltfish – Pla Pao Glua


A video showing the preparation of this recipe is at the top of the page – handy link to the video below the description here.

Whole fish sprinkled with salt and fried in the typical Thai street style. Deliciously juicy and delicately seasoned, all natural, in this old-fashioned cooking method. This is one of the best ways to cook a whole fish, and it’s not easy.

OPINION: All internal recipe images can be turned on or off using the camera icons next to the Instructions section.

Cooking time 5 minutes

Cooking time 35 minutes

Total time 40 minutes

Basic course

Thai cuisine

For 2 persons

Calories 292 kcal

  • 1 pound whole sea bass, salmon or other flaky white fish
  • 3 cups coarse salt
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz chopped galangal
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 4 leaves K.l.l.

Contents : 200gCalories : 292kcalCarbohydrates : 16g Protein : 47gFat : 4gSaturated fat : 1gCholesterol : 113mgSodium : 169879mgPotassium : 774mgFibre : 1gSugar : 1gCalcium : 128mgIron : 4mg

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Delicious succulent and tasty whole fish cooked in salt

I am a Thai mother and I love to cook for my children. Over the years, I have adapted family recipes and borrowed recipes from friends to make them even more delicious. I publish my authentic Thai recipes here for the world to enjoy. Whenever I have the opportunity to travel, I publish information to help others visit Thailand.

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