Salt-Crusted Tilapia with Lemongrass
- ACTIVE: 20 MIN
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 20 MIN
- SERVINGS: 8
Thai cooks love tilapia for its versatility. "You can steam it, fry it or grill it," Andy Ricker says about this mild white fish. At Pok Pok, he stuffs whole fish with lemongrass, encases it in a salt crust, and cooks it over a charcoal fire. Be sure the heat stays relatively low, or the crust will burn before the fish is ready to emerge, moist and fragrant.
- 4 lemongrass stalks, tender inner bulbs only, cut into 2-inch lengths
- Four 2-pound tilapia, scaled and cleaned
- Slurry made with 1/2 cup cornstarch dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce, for serving
- In a mortar, lightly pound the lemongrass. Arrange the fish on a work surface and pat dry. Stuff the cavities with the lemongrass. Brush 3 tablespoons of the cornstarch slurry over one side of the fish. Spread 1/4 cup of the salt over the slurry to form a thin crust. Let stand at room temperature until the crust is dry, about 20 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over and repeat with the remaining 3 tablespoons of slurry and 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Let stand for another 20 minutes, until completely dry.
- Light a grill. Carefully place the tilapia on the grill and cook over moderately low heat, turning once, until the fish is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the tilapia to a work surface. Using your fingers or 2 forks, peel off the tilapia skin. Transfer the fish to plates and serve with the Spicy Citrus Dipping Sauce.
For light, simple, grilled-fish dishes like this one, look to a region famous for grilling seafood: Galicia, on Spain's Atlantic coast. Crisp and lemony Albariño, Galicia's iconic white wine, is ideal here.