I love food that’s really, really hot and sweet and sour. This quick dish is easy to whip up on weekends. Fish is fried to crispy brown and garlic-based sauce is served on the side. It doesn’t get better than this.

Lemon basil must be the easiest herb to grow in our region. They just grow like weeds. Weed is the right word since mother can’t stand to not throwing my big pot of basil away. I am now re-planting a new batch. I used a lot less basil than what is called for. Once my basil grows like weed again, I will be generous.

The fish is bought from the local market, where fish are laid out in the open. They attract a lot of buyers and more flies. I picked my fish quickly and paid the guy. I am not a fan of darkish-enclosed fish market with muddy water. As mother have told me a thousand times before that morning, wash your meat and fish with coarse salt and water. So I did exactly that. Ran the fish under tap water for a couple of minutes, giving it a good rinse. Then sprinkle generous amount of salt and rub it onto the skin lightly. Ran the poor guy under water again. Make some cut on both sides and sprinkle fine salt, again. Generously dust the fish with tapioca starch. The starch would keep the fish from sticking to the wok when deep-fried.

Heat some cooking oil in a wok. Wait till it is really hot before putting the fish in. Fry for 4 minutes each side.

Remove from oil and set aside for later use.

Heat some oil in a wok. Stir-fry onion and garlic till fragrant.

Add coarsely ground fresh chili into the wok. Stir fry quickly till the color changes. This is a very nasty step. The heat released the hot chili gas almost instantaneously. Take cover if possible.

When the chili changes to darker color, add water and lime juice.

Some sugar and fish sauce. Simmer over low heat till it boils.

Lastly, add basil leaves.

Remove from heat and serve with fried fish.


Fried fish with garlic sauce

Makes 2-4 servings


400 g fish fillet (or whole fish)
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp tapioca starch
1 onion, roughly chopped
6 garlic, minced
10 chilies, seeds removed and coarsely ground
100 g water
2 tbsp sugar
1 lime, juiced
2 tbsp fish sauce
20 g basil leaves
2 tbsp oil, and more for deep-frying fish


Clean fish thoroughly with cold water. Sprinkle some salt and lightly rub all parts of fish.
Sprinkle tapioca starch and distribute the flour evenly.
Fry on hot oil till crunchy, about 6 minutes each side. Remove from oil, set aside.
Heat some oil in a wok over high heat.
Add onion and garlic and cook quickly till fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add chilies. Stir-fry quickly for a minute.
Combine water, lime juice and sugar. Lower heat and cook for 2 minutes.
Season with fish sauce.
Toss in basil leaves and remove from heat. Serve with fried fish.

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14 Responses to “Fried Fish with Garlic Sauce”

  1. 1

    Tuty — June 6, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

    The fish looks delicious with the sauce. The way we like it served… sauce on the side. Is that Kakap that you fried?

  2. 2

    Arudhi@Aboxofkitchen — June 7, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    Waaaah…what a beautiful vibrant colors! I wonder when I will ever be able to fry a fish that beautifully like you did. That basil leaves, they are daun kemangi right? I missed them!!

    • Jun replied: — June 22nd, 2011 @ 6:36 am

      I think they are called lemon basil, those kemangi leaves. I can never tell the difference between basil for Italian pesto and basil for our Indonesian cuisine

  3. 3

    Pepy @Indonesia Eats — June 7, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    I envy you with ample lemon basils! I only get them in summer! Some nurseries sell them and quite lucky a big Canadian chain grocer sells the seed.

  4. 4

    kankana — June 7, 2011 @ 6:20 pm

    U made me miss home!!! This is one of my fav way to eat fish tail … and nothing could replace that. Hubby doesn’t eat fish with skin and looking at this .. i am craving for it so so badly…

  5. 5

    pigpigscorner — June 9, 2011 @ 5:00 am

    Hot, sweet and sour is my favourite combo too! I don’t think I’ll share this :P

  6. 6

    mycookinghut — June 9, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    Looks really good! I also like food that is hot, sweet and sour too… drooollll

  7. 7

    Lakshmi — June 13, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    I really like the sauce, dont eat fish since I am a vegetarian :) . Looks real good btw

    • Jun replied: — June 22nd, 2011 @ 6:36 am

      You can serve the sauce with steamed or boiled vegetables. It is very delicious!

  8. 8

    Anne — June 18, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    What kind of fish is it? It looks real good,

  9. 9

    cherie — July 5, 2011 @ 4:45 am

    I Luv… the way you shown your recipe in step by step!

  10. 10

    kapri — December 5, 2011 @ 2:55 pm

    hiya…it looks yummy scrummy…btw, i cant gets lemon basil here, can i replace wz other herb ??? if so, wot sort of herb..?? thks =D)

  11. 11

    asad raza — April 9, 2013 @ 12:53 am

    sir i wan to use your image just for institutional purpose can i use this image

  12. 12

    geraline — August 8, 2013 @ 9:16 am

    Hi Jun , thank you for these recipe i tried it out on Sunday and my family love it but it was hard getting basil leaves ,As many of the market stores or supermarket do not carry them . And today i tried out your chicken burger oh it was good and i add fried sweet potatoes as fries to go along. Your recipe is one of my fav .Thank you again .

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