Jul 27, 2017

Whole Roast Fish with Asian Spices

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
A whole roast fish is an impressive way to show off at an intimate dinner party.

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A whole roast fish is an impressive way to show off at an intimate dinner party. Whole fish, also known as “in the round”, is when the fish is served with the head on, just as the fish was caught.

While serving the whole roasted fish is visually appealing – it can also be intimidating to have a whole fish sitting in front of you. A fish staring you in the eyes can make some squeamish but for me it gives an appreciation of where my food comes from. With these tips you will look like an old pro and will be making whole fish for every dinner party.

In this recipe I stuff it with a combination of cilantro, garlic, ginger with some sesame oil and fish sauce for a baked fish with Asian flavors. I like to serve this rustic seasoned fish with rice and vegetables like bok choy or seared shishito peppers.

Whole Roast Fish with Asian Spices

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

Sea Bream

With it’s beautiful red and pink color, New Zealand Sea Bream is a firm, meaty round fish with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Its found in the Gulf of Mexico as well as adjacent Atlantic waters.

It can be difficult to find whole fish if you don’t know where to look. I get mine from a local seafood store, Santa Monica Seafood. Many grocery stores only sell filets so you may have to either go straight to the source (a fisherman), special order the whole fish or go to a specialty seafood store. Rather than doing it myself, I prefer to have one of the fishmongers gut the fish and remove the scales and gills. That way they can just be filled and popped right in the oven.

Soy Sauce

I use reduced sodium soy sauce so that I can control the amount of salt in the recipe, adding more if needed.

Fish sauce

I love the funky umami flavor fish sauce adds to any dish. It’s a great way to enhance the flavor of curries or even chicken wings. The flavor comes from a process of fermenting fish over a long period of time.

red snapper with asian spices ready for roasting in oven

How to Make Whole Roast Fish

  1. Prep the fish. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Make 3 parallel 2-inch-long slashes on each side of the Sea Bream. Rub the fish all over with the canola oil.
  2. Make the seasoning. Chop ¼ cup of the cilantro. In a small bowl stir together the cilantro, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and fish sauce. Season with kosher salt and white pepper.
  3. Fill the fish and season. Rub the paste all over the fish including the inside. Season all over with kosher salt and pepper. Add the lime slices into the inside of the fish cavity. 
  4. Bake the fish. Bake until the fish is flakey and cooked through, about 28 to 30 minutes.
  5. Serve. Serve on a platter with the roasting juices and garnish with cilantro, green onions and chilies.
Whole Roast Red Snapper with Asian Spices on platter with cilantro green onion and fresno garnish

How to Eat Whole Fish

While it’s aesthetically pleasing it is also a great way to cook fish because it seals in the flavor and moisture. In preparing the fish for cooking, the goal is to remove the fillets from the top portion of the fish as well as the underside.

  1. With the fish on a platter or plate, use a sharp knife or fish knife and cut between the head and body and repeat on the tail end.
  2. Then insert the knife at the tail end and cut from the backbone to the cavity. With the knife resting against the backbone, cut up to the head. Use a spatula and starting at the tail end, lift the filet off the backbone and move to a separate plate.
  3. Lift the tail of the fish and remove the backbone (or flip the fish over and lift the other filet off the bone). Divide the filets into 4 portions.
Whole Roast Red Snapper with Asian Spices platter for serving

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this whole roasted fish recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Whole Roast Fish with Asian Spices

Print Pin
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the fish:

  • 1 (1½-pound) whole New Zealand Sea Bream, cleaned, scaled and gutted
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced

For serving:

  • ¼ packed cup cilantro
  • Green onions, julienned
  • 1 medium Fresno chilies, seeded and thinly sliced

Instructions:

For the fish:

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Make 3 parallel 2-inch-long slashes on each side of the Sea Bream. Rub the fish all over with the canola oil.
  • Chop ¼ cup of the cilantro. In a small bowl stir together the cilantro, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce and fish sauce. Season with kosher salt and white pepper.
  • Rub the paste all over the fish including the inside. Season all over with kosher salt and pepper. Add the lime slices into the inside of the fish cavity. Bake until the fish is flakey and cooked through, about 28 to 30 minutes.

For serving:

  • Serve on a platter with the roasting juices and garnish with cilantro, green onions and chilies.

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I get my fresh seafood from a local store, Santa Monica Seafood, as it has a great selection of fish with plenty of sustainable options. Click the link here for an exclusive coupon for your next order from Santa Monica Seafood!

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    • Apologies for any typos. It should be stirred together with the ingredients from the sauce – with the cilantro, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and fish sauce.