Whole Red Snapper with Roasted Tomato Sauce

Chef Joshua Walker flavors the snapper here with ginger, lemongrass, and makrut lime, then steams it on a plate to collect the tangy juices; it's excellent served over rice. The accompanying sauce, called tomato jeow in Laos, is also great on everything from roast chicken or pork to scrambled eggs. Slideshow:  How to Roast Whole Fish 

Whole Red Snapper with Roasted Tomato Sauce
Photo: © Ryan Liebe
Total Time:
35 mins


Roasted Tomato Sauce

  • 3 large unpeeled garlic cloves

  • 5 small Thai chiles

  • One 1-pound tomato, cored and quartered

  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • Kosher salt

Steamed Fish

  • One 1 3/4- to 2-pound red snapper, cleaned and scaled

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and julienned (1/2 cup)

  • One 4-inch piece of lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only, julienned

  • 2 fresh makrut lime leaves

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 4 small Thai chiles, sliced

  • Basil leaves, for garnish

  • White rice, for serving


Make the Tomato Sauce

  1. In a skillet, toast the garlic, chiles and three-quarters of the tomato over moderately high heat, turning, until lightly charred all over, 3 minutes for the garlic and chiles and 7 minutes for the tomato; let cool. Transfer to a blender, add the fish sauce and remaining tomato and puree until nearly smooth. Season the tomato sauce with salt.

Make the Steamed Fish

  1. Fill a flameproof medium roasting pan with 1 inch of water and set a rack in the pan. Make 5 parallel slashes to the bone on each side of the snapper. Lightly season the fish inside and out with salt. Stuff the ginger in the slashes, then stuff any remaining ginger inside the cavity along with the lemongrass and lime leaves. Set the fish on a large rimmed heatproof plate and set it on the rack; the water should not touch the plate.

  2. In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles. Pour the sauce over the fish. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bring the water to a boil. Steam the fish until opaque throughout and the meat flakes easily, 10 to 12 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and transfer the fish and its juices to a platter. Garnish with basil and serve with the roasted tomato sauce and rice.

Make Ahead

The dipping sauce can be refrigerated for 1 week.


It is important to use fresh (not dried) makrut lime leaves here. They are available at Asian supermarkets; if sold frozen, defrost before using.

Suggested Pairing

Berry-scented rosé.

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