Baked whole fish was our date night dinner this week! Fish is often one of those things people get scared about cooking, but this whole fish recipe is super simple to make and pretty darn tasty too. With the addition of all the Asian flavours, a beautiful drop of riesling and the job is done! Literally, all you need to do is chop up some chili, ginger & lemongrass and wrap the fish in baking paper. It's that simple!
What fish can I use en papillote?
The beauty of a recipe like this is you can use most types of fish. I used a native Australian fish for my whole fish recipe - hussar. Hussar is part of the sea perch family. Native to the eastern coast of Australia. It is known as a 'good eating fish' and has good firm flesh. Typically grow to around 2-3kg, the one I used was a little over 600g, perfect for feeding 2 people.
Other whole fish that I would choose to use would be branzino, sea bream, seabass, snapper, coral trout, and even brown trout. For the latter, I would probably choose a different style than Asian.
What is En Papillote?
Pronounced 'on poppy yote' or in Italian al cartoccio is essentially the cooking of something (typically fish) in paper. The truth is it doesn't need to be paper. You can use aluminum foil too. Which, as we all know, is pretty darn easy to crunch up and form a seal. From an aesthetics point of view, I prefer using parchment/baking paper as it offers that little 'wow' factor when serving to guests.
The theory behind cooking something this way is the steam that the fish, vegetables, and drop of wine or citrus added to it cooks the fish. Hence why you need to make sure your parchment paper or foil has a tight seal. As it steams it, the fish would also take on the aromatics that you have used. In this case, Asian flavours like ginger, lemongrass, coriander & chili. Another added bonus of baked whole fish en papillote is it won't stink up your home, which is often the case when cooking fish.
Other things that can be cooked and served this way are chicken and/or vegetables. Heck, if you are Will (a good friend - hi!), you can wax lyrically about a restaurant in Melbourne that he wants to take you to on your first visit to Australia. Order "pasta in a bag" and then proceed to fall asleep at the table. Was the dish a success, or was he just bored of conversation?
Prepping the fish
Find a good fishmonger is the best advice I can give! I spent my youth fishing for salmon and trout, so I'm no stranger to cleaning fish, but the truth is if someone else can do it, then let them! The other side of using a fishmonger is scraping the scales. It's a messy job, and because you are eating the fish whole, the last thing you want/need is to be picking scales from your teeth.
If you need to scale the fish yourself, then hold the fish by the tail and using the back of a knife scrape from the tail to the head. This will remove all the flaky scales. Make sure to rinse the fish with cold water afterward to wash them away!
Once the dirty job is done (by someone else!), all you need to do is slice each side of the fish a couple times. This is done with whole fish and not fillets (more on that later). It allows the aromatics to impart more flavour into the flesh of the fish. Season the fish, salt is the key to success in the kitchen, and if you don't salt the fish before cooking, then you will be left with a bland piece!
Does it need to be a whole fish?
Nope. Obviously, if your plan is to cook a baked while fish, then well, the whole fish is kinda essential. But, the practice of preparing fish en papillote doesn't need to be done using a whole fish.
If not using whole fish, then any of the above mentioned will work. Also, salmon, halibut, barramundi, and cod, to name a few others. The big thing to remember when cooking fish this way is having the pieces of fish the same size. No point having one big juicy centerpiece and one tailpiece as the thickness varies, and therefore one will cook quicker than the other. This is especially true if planning on cooking this simple whole fish recipe for a group of people. It's a great prep in advance dish, don't stink your house out dish that also cooks quickly too. PERFECT for a dinner party.
Another piece that I like to use that has TONS of flavour is the collar. Seen lately, in "hip/cool" restaurants, the collar has tons of flavour as it has rich belly meat and also a nice fat cap. Defo one that I would recommend giving a go!
What to serve with baked whole fish?
I am on a big soba noodle buzz lately, so I went with using them to serve with. Simply with tons of spring onion, toasted sesame seeds, and soy sauce. It's a dish that can be served hot or cold and takes about 10 minutes to make from start to finish, so while you're sipping on wine as your fish steams, you can quickly whip this up. Double the portion, and you have lunch for the next day too!
Other options would be steamed rice, fried Asian greens, grilled asparagus would work too. Often when we cook En Papillote, we add extra veg to the bag so that its a meal in one. I like the idea of noodles in the side and eating all the lovely aromatics (ginger, chili & garlic) that we have added alongside the fish and noodles.
Other fish recipes
Fish is often a little feared by people when cooking at home. Its delicacy makes people worried about overcooking it. Here are a few recipes compiled by some fellow foodies. These recipes are easy to follow and WAY easier to eat 😉
Gin & Beet Cured Salmon by Yours Truly - PERFECT for larger groups, parties, and special occasions
Salsa Verde Baked Salmon by Donna Mansour of 'Whole Food Bellies' - another cracker of an En Papillote fish dish
Grilled Sriracha Barramundi & Tequila Pineapple Salsa by Jaimie Archer of 'Jaimie Eats' - no words needed to describe how ridiculously good this sounds and looks!
Teriyaki Salmon Toast by Yours Truly - simple, quick, and packed with flavour. A regular in our home
Salmon Sashimi w/ Yuzu Vinaigrette by Phenie Ooi of 'The Devil Wears Salad' - yum, yum, and more yum. Simple, healthy, and so darn tasty!
Thai Style Deep Fried Whole Fish by Sara McCleary of 'Belly Rumbles' - this just brings back so many fond memories of food in Thailand.
Crispy Fish Sandwich by Yours Truly - this is DEFO, a screw the diet dinner, but 100% worth it.
Sous Vide Salmon w/ Fennel Salad by Alexandra Cook of 'It's Not Complicated Recipes' - perfectly cooked salmon, and a delicious, uncomplicated salad too boot
I dunno about you but if reading through all these doesn't make you hungry what will.............?
For fish, you generally want something light and delicate. It doesn't always need to be white, though. Many fish dishes that are cooked in heartier tomato-based stews will stand up to a nice red. But, in this case, we are sticking to the basics. With using the aromatics like ginger, coriander & chili, I wanted something that would balance well with the sweet/spicy flavours you get in Asian cuisine. Living in Australia, being surrounded by 100's of wineries, I stuck with some good quality homegrown juice!
On a recent trip to the Barossa, I discovered the beautiful Gomersal winery and immediately LOVED their 2018 Eden Valley riesling. Crisp and juicy is how I would describe it. Great lemon & lime flavours and a little pear too. It was the perfect wine to add a splash to my whole baked fish recipe and to add a much larger splash to the glass beside me 😉
If you are keen to taste their wines, then head to their site and use the code COOKINGWITHGOMERSAL for 25% off your first order #winning
Happy Cooking and Happy Eating Friends!!
- 500 g whole fish see tips
- 1 lemongrass peeled and cut *see tips*
- 1 thumbsized piece ginger cut into matchsticks
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 red chili cut into matchsticks
- 1 handful coriander stalks reserve the leaves for later
- 1 spring onion sliced at an angle
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp white wine
- 1 lime zested
- 1 bunch soba noodles usually 90g
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds toasted *tips*
- 2 tbsp soy
- 1' piece ginger grated
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- coriander leaves
- sesame seeds
- lime wedge
- Mix soy, wine & lime zest together and set aside
- Mix spring onions, garlic, chili, ginger and ½ coriander stalks together – set aside
- Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper about 2-3” larger than the fish
- Cut 3 slices into the fish flesh on either side
- Place ½ the ginger/chili mix onto 1 of the parchment paper pieces and place fish on top. Topping fish with remainder if ginger/chili mix
- Stuff fish with lemongrass & other ½ of the coriander stalks
- Pour soy/wine mix over fish and place 2nd piece of parchment paper over the top
- Crunch up all the edges, folding them over until the parcel is sealed *see tips*
- Cook fish for 20-25 minutes @ 180c. Once cooked spoon over some of the steaminq liquid and top with garnish
- Boil noodles according to packet and refresh *see tips*
- Add sesame oil to frying pan and fry spring onions on medium heat for 30 seconds, add sauce and noodles back to pan, add sesame seeds and toss in frying pan.
- baking tray
- chef knives
- chopping board
- frying pan
- measuring utensils
- i used whole huzzar fish for this recipe but you can use whole snapper or bream too. The recipe will also work well with fillets of salmon, barramundi too. Cooking time will be 10-15 minutes on filleted fish
- to prepare lemongrass chop off the root, peel the outer layers and slice ½ lengthways
- to toast sesame seeds for noodles heat them for 30 second in a dry frying pan – set aside
- when folding parchment paper over don’t worry about it looking pretty – it ain’t the 4 seasons so as long as it’s sealed you are good to go
- to “refresh” noodles means to run under cold water