Wood Roasted Reef Fish with Pineapple Curry

Servings: 4 | Prep Time: 2 hours | Cook Time: 1 hour | Skill Level: 2 (Moderate)


Pineapple curry

  • 5 large dried long red chillies, de-seeded and soaked in water for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight
  • 4 tbsp garlic, whole   
  • 5 tbsp red shallots, peeled, roughly chopped  
  • 4 tbsp young lemongrass, tender inner part only, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp peeled galangal, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp washed and scraped coriander roots, reserve leaves  
  • 1 tbsp fresh turmeric, finely sliced  
  • 1 tsp good-quality Thai shrimp paste, roasted (see tip below)
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream (see tip below)
  • 1 tbsp ginger oil (see tip below)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised
  • 1–2 tbsp pale palm sugar, crushed
  • 1 cup fish stock
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (approx.) (start with 1 tsp and add more to taste)
  • ½ pineapple, grated and juice collected
  • 1 tbsp thick tamarind water (see tip below)
  • 2 limes, juiced  


  • 1 beautiful reef fish, 1.2–1.5 kg (I like mine freshly line-caught and brain-spiked) we used Flame snapper
  • 1 tbsp cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp good-quality fish sauce
  • 3 cups assorted coriander, Thai basil, Vietnamese mint and mint leaves
  • 4 tsp fried garlic crisps
  • 4 tbsp fried shallot crisps
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced into threads
  • 2 lemon leaves, finely sliced into threads
  • 2 limes, sliced into thin rings
  • handful shaved coconut, toasted in a dry pan


  1. First make the pineapple curry. Place the chilli, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, coriander roots, turmeric and shrimp paste with a pinch of salt into a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Crack coconut cream by simmering it in a heavy-based pot or wok until it splits into a curdled-looking substance. Add ginger oil then add the curry paste with the bruised kaffir lime leaves and fry over an even heat until heady and fragrant. It should take 10–15 minutes and smell beautifully perfumed.
  3. Add the palm sugar and continue to fry for a few moments to caramelise the sugar and deepen the colour. Finally add the stock, fish sauce, grated pineapple and juice, and tamarind water, and bring the curry back to a gentle simmer for another 10 minutes to allow the flavours to coalesce.
  4. Squeeze in the fresh lime juice and adjust the seasoning as necessary. The curry should taste rich, sour and slightly sweet and have a wonderful orange film of oil on top.
  5. Remove and discard the scales, gills and guts from the fish, rinse the out the fish cavity, clean and pat dry. Stuff the cavity with the reserved coriander leaves. Score the fish with a sharp knife and then rub it with the sugar and fish sauce. Tuck the seasoned fish into a snug tray and allow it to marinate for 5–10 minutes.
  6. Light a fire using your favourite wood and allow it to burn down to coals, alternatively bake in an 180C oven. Cook the fish in amongst the coals until it starts to colour, 10-15 minutes, then pour over the prepared curry and simmer until the fish falls from the bone gracefully. Times will vary according to the size of the fish, check every 5 minutes.
  7. Scatter over the herbs, garlic and shallot crisps, leaf threads, sliced limes and toasted coconut and serve in the tray, alongside the Palm Heart, Papaya, Young Coconut and Lychee Salad.


  • To roast shrimp paste, spread the required quantity onto a double thickness of tinfoil and fold into an ‘envelope’ encasing the paste. Place the packet directly onto the coals or grill of a barbecue and roast for a few minutes each side. Cool.
  • For ginger oil, place several slices of fresh ginger in 100 ml vegetable oil and warm gently (to 50–60°C). The oil can be used straight away, but will mature further with time if you store it with the ginger left in.
  • Make tamarind water by breaking up tamarind pulp with your fingers in a little warm water and straining out the seeds.
  • Nick was having 15- 20 guests for dinner so he baked a large fish and made a large portion of curry sauce.
  • This recipe will serve 4.  You can bake your fish in the oven and make your sauce is a regular sized wok or saucepan.