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Deluxe spices, rich flavours and an overwhelming aroma, Fillet of Bar Cod Poached in Coconut Milk and Garam Masala is an exceptional dish.


  • 1.5 L Coconut milk

  • Palm Sugar

  • 30 ml Fish sauce

  • 1 kg bar Cod fillet cut into 6 portions

  • 50 ml Coconut cream

  • 1 large bunch Sweet Thai basil picked

  • 1 Lemon in half

  • Tomato and chilli base

  • 1 large brown onion peeled and finely diced

  • 3 Cloves Garlic minced

  • 2 cm fresh piece Turmeric peeled and minced

  • 5 wild green Scud Chilli's finely chopped

  • 1 large knob Ginger peeled and minced

  • 260 ml vegetable oil

  • sea salt

  • 6 vine ripened Tomatoes cut into 5mm dice

  • garam masala

  • 1 teaspoon green Cardamom seeds roasted

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed roasted

  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Clove roasted

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorn roasted

  • 2 sticks Cinnamon roasted

  • 1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg


  • 1.

    To make the tomato and chilli base, cook the onions, garlic, turmeric, chillies and ginger in the vegetable oil in a heavy-based pot.

  • 2.

    Season with salt and cook slowly, on a low heat until caramelised (this can take 40 minutes up to 1 hour).

  • 3.

    When the onion mixture has caramelised, add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.

  • 4.

    Remove and set aside until ready to use.

  • 5.

    To make the garam masala, simply combine all the roasted spices together in a mortar and pestle and pound to a fine powder.

  • 6.

    Add the powdered nutmeg and mix. Store in an air-tight container.

  • 7.

    In a pot with a tight fitting lid, large enough to hold the fish snugly, add the coconut milk, tomato and chilli base, palm sugar, fish sauce and garam masala and place the lid on.

  • 8.

    Bring to the boil.

  • 9.

    Add the fish, presentation side down, and lower the heat to just under a boil.

  • 10.

    Place the lid back on and cook very, very slowly for 8 minutes, making sure that the mixture never boils.

  • 11.

    Turn the fish once, when about half cooked.

  • 12.

    Remove from the heat and rest for 5 minutes.

  • 13.

    Add the coconut cream, basil and a splash of lemon juice and replace the lid.

  • 14.

    Serve this dish in the pot, with blanched semolina noodles and snow peas.


Neil's Tip: At Rockpool, we cook the fish in a copper pot, which we take to the table. The perfume of the garam masala and sweet Thai basil when the lid is lifted is glorious.
Cook the fish carefully so it flakes and remains moist. Barramundi, red emperor, snapper and other reef fish are excellent substitutes for bar cod. Garam masala is a house spice mix. The spices lose their aroma when stored.
So don't make alot at a time. For maximum flavour intensity, caramelise the onions properly before adding the tomatoes when making the tomato and chilli base.

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