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Ca Chien Don - Crispy skinned snapper with ginger and lime fish sauce


  • 300–500 g (101/2 oz–1 lb 4 oz) whole snapper

  • 2 tbsp potato starch

  • 1 egg white

  • Chinese cooking oil, for deep-frying

  • 1 large handful shredded green papaya or green mango

  • 4 tbsp nuoc mam gung (see below)

  • 1 tbsp mo hanh (see below)

  • Nuoc mam gung - Ginger and lime fish sauce

  • Ginger and lime fish sauce

  • 100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) nuoc mam cham (recipe follows)

  • Juice of 1/2 lime

  • 2 tsp finely chopped ginger

  • 1 tsp pickled chilli

  • Nuoc mam cham - Dipping Fish Sauce

  • Makes 250 ml / 1 cup

  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) fish sauce

  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) rice vinegar

  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) water

  • 2 tbsp sugar

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 bird’s eye chilli

  • 2 tbsp lime juice

  • Mo Hanh - Spring onion (scallion) oil

  • Makes 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup)

  • 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) vegetable oil

  • 6–8 spring onions (scallions), green part only, finely sliced


  • 1.

    Wash and dry the snapper thoroughly and place on a cutting board. Make three cuts along each side of the fish making sure not to cut right through to the bone.

  • 2.

    Mix the egg white with the potato starch to form a batter and set aside.

  • 3.

    In a large wok or deep-fryer, heat the oil to 180°C (350°F), or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in 15 seconds.

  • 4.

    Coat the snapper thoroughly with the batter. Wipe off any excess batter and carefully slide the snapper into the oil. Cook the fish for 5–7 minutes, or until done. Remember the skin should be crisp and the fish slightly underdone as it will continue to cook once removed from the oil.

  • 5.

    Place on a serving platter, cover with the shredded green papaya or mango spoon over nuoc mam gung and mo hanh.

  • Nuoc mam gung:

  • 1.

    Combine all of the ingredients together and mix well.

  • Nuoc mam cham:

  • 1.

    Combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir well and cook until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool.

  • 2.

    To serve, finely chop the garlic and chilli and stir through with the lime juice.

  • Mo hanh :

  • 1.

    Put the oil and the spring onions in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the spring onions until they just start to simmer in the oil, remove from the heat and allow to cool. The spring onion oil will keep for up to 1 week in a covered container in the fridge.


Sauces also in Secrets of The Red Lantern, Pauline Nguyen with recipes by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen.

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