Pla Pad Cha (Thai Fried Fish with Spicy Chile Sauce)

White peppercorns and brined green peppercorns add pungency to crisp, tender snapper fillets in this quick recipe.

 Pla Phadcha (Thai Fried Fish with Spicy Chile Sauce)

Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Chelsea Zimmer / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Total Time:
35 mins
2 servings

In this recipe from Watcharapong Tanabat, a chef at Ging Grai in Chiang Mai, Thailand, lightly crisp, tender fish gets a sweet tang from oyster sauce and mild, fresh piquancy from fingerroot, a rhizome similar to young ginger. Brined green peppercorns lend a burst of juicy, tart, and salty flavor to the dish. Be gentle with the fish when frying to keep slices intact.


  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 2 to 3 fresh green Thai chiles, stemmed

  • 1 fresh red Thai chile, stemmed, plus additional sliced chile for garnish

  • 1 small Thai shallot, roughly chopped (about 2 tablespoons) (see Note)

  • 2 teaspoons white peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for frying (about 5 quarts)

  • 12 ounces skin-on fish fillets (such as snapper, tilapia, catfish), cut with the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices

  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce (such as Lucky)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white soy sauce (see Note)

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

  • 5 makrut lime leaves (see Note)

  • 1/4 cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves, plus more for garnish

  • 2 tablespoons drained brined green peppercorns (see Note)

  • 2 tablespoons sliced fresh or thawed frozen fingerroot (see Note)

  • Hot cooked long-grain white rice


  1. Pound garlic, green and red chiles, shallot, and white peppercorns into a paste using a mortar and pestle, about 2 minutes. (Alternatively, process in a food processor until mixture is roughly chopped, about 30 seconds.)

  2. Pour oil into a large high-sided skillet to a depth of 1 inch; heat over medium until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°F. Add fish; cook until light golden brown, about 2 minutes, gently flipping once halfway through cooking time. Carefully remove fish using a slotted spatula; transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wok or cast-iron skillet over high. Add chile paste mixture; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, white soy sauce, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Add fried fish, lime leaves, basil, green peppercorns, and fingerroot; gently stir to coat fish with sauce, about 15 seconds. Transfer to a plate. Garnish with sliced chile and basil. Serve with rice.


Look for Thai shallots, a small red allium with mild garlic flavor; white soy sauce; fingerroot; and makrut lime leaves at most Asian grocery stores or online at You can source brined green peppercorns at If using frozen fingerroot, thaw before slicing.

To Make Ahead

Chile paste may be stored in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 5 days.

Suggested Pairing

Lively, citrusy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: Giesen Uncharted Sauvignon Blanc

Related Articles