Fish stir fry is a great dish, especially if you souse the fish with Thai flavours, but the best fish for a stir fry needs to be firm: cod, haddock, hake, monkfish or similar.
Can you stir fry fish?
I can officially confirm that it’s possible to stir fry fish. It’s probably laughably obvious to chefs, especially the genuine Asian chefs with ethnic roots and skills who know what they’re doing when they cook stir fries.
I just slosh a bit of fish sauce about and pretend I’m cooking Thai – but why blame me? It’s no cultural appropriation but an affirmation of how wonderful the cuisine is, even when cooked by a clueless farang.
So can you stir fry fish???
Fish stir fries: I was always concerned that – sturdy monkfish aside – fish would flake to oblivion and disintegrate in a wok, the brutal beast that it is (wok, not fish). And surprise, surprise, not so as it turns out.
Which only confirms that you shouldn’t declare anything impossible until you try.
How do you stir fry fish then, for crying out loud?
Pretty much as you would stir fry chicken but handling it with ten times as much care. Joking aside: it needs to be seared in the wok first, then carefully removed and set aside to wait for the companions: vegetables and noodles, to be cooked.
It then returns to the wok, gently again, and briefly steams under a lid to complete the cooking.
Anything else about fish stir fries?
Well, of course - marinade. Apart from giving it flavour and creating the sauce, it also helps keep fish firm. Salt from the soy sauce, together with cornflour both coat and firm up the fish chunks.
So basically, it's simple:
The secret is to marinate it senseless, cook it on medium heat and handle it with (chopsticks and) care when in and out of, and then in again, the wok.
You can add some green Thai curry paste to the vegetables at the end of their cooking if you wish.
The monkfish option
I’ve mentioned monkfish: it is certainly a good option for a fish stir fry. What’s more, you won’t have to handle it quite so gently as it is firm and resilient to being tossed about the wok.
But firstly, it is expensive so throwing it into a stir fry may seem a little extravagant. It is better to make it a star of the show and cook it on its own, spiced monkfish for instance, or to surround it just with one or two frying pan companions and make monkfish with chorizo and mushrooms.
Most ingredients in the recipe are perfectly accessible, available in every supermarket. But if you can’t get Thai chillies, use a jalapeno or any other medium-sized green chilli (birdseye, the tiny ones are mighty hot).
If you have no inclination to search for palm sugar, use soft brown or demerara. Instead of fish sauce, Worcestershire can be used, or simply add 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce.
And chilli oil can be substituted with groundnut oil, losing only a fraction of the overall heat in the dish.
More Thai recipes
Thai flavours in a vegetarian dish are as potent as with meat or fish. Thai cinnamon noodles is Nigella’s prawn noodle recipe I adapted to be vegetarian.
Thai beef salad is a classic, and mine uses bavette steak. It’s the cheapest decent steaking cut of beef, massively underrated and fabulously delicious, if approached correctly.
And more fish with Thai seasoning – this time a whole grilled trout. Delightful!
More Asian fish recipes
Miso marinated cod or haddock is a fine dining classic. Even though I use ordinary cod instead of Japanese black cod, it’s still an astonishing dish.
Stir fried salmon with lots of lemon, a new way of preparing this familiar fish.
And there is the Vietnamese salad bowl with smoked fish, Arbroath smokie or whatever native equivalent is readily available in your neck of woods.
And don’t forget the Thai restaurant classic: whole steamed sea bass with spring onions and fresh coriander.