Saturday, December 17, 2011

Striped Pangasius With Thai Coconut Curry

I've been buying this striped pangasius (also known as swai) from Trader Joe's because it's really cheap ($4.99/lb) and tastes pretty good. And by "good" I really just mean "mild", as in tastes like tilapia. 

I'm not knocking it and my daughter really likes it, so for the price and for what you get, I think it's a great deal.

I used this fish for sandwiches a little while ago but I wanted to make a healthier fish dish. This recipe is from (again) and while it calls to broil the fish, I can never get the fish done the way I like it in the broiler. It always ends up mushy or overdone.

I pan seared the fish for this dish and even though it used a little more oil than it could have, I used grape seed oil, which is a bit better for you than other oils, so I feel ok with it.

The curry in this dish is simply a term for the sauce in general. It does have some curry powder and red curry paste (which you should be able to find in the store (I would not recommend trying to make it from scratch)) but the flavors are really balanced out by the coconut milk. I'm talking to you, Mom and Dad.

Striped Pangasius With Thai Coconut Curry
(from here)

1 tsp sesame oil, divided
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup scallions, finely sliced
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp red curry paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Asian fish sauce
1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 lbs Striped Pangasius fillets (or any other white fish - tilapia, cod, catfish, etc.)
Salt & pepper
1 lime (for serving)
Jasmine Rice (cooked per package instructions)


Begin by prepping your veggies and thawing your fish (if it's frozen).

Mince about 1 tablespoon each of ginger and garlic. Mince it pretty finely.

Chop the bell pepper as finely as you can and slice up the scallions finely.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil to a non-stick pan over medium heat and add the ginger and garlic.

Cook for 1 minute.

Add the peppers and scallions and cook for another minute.

Add the 1 tsp curry powder, 2 tsp red curry paste and 1/2 tsp ground cumin and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.

Add the 4 tsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp brown sugar and 2 tsp fish sauce and stir to combine.

Shake well and pour in the whole can of coconut milk.

Stir well to combine and drop the temp to med/low. 

You want the mixture to get to the point where it's bubbling in the center, but not overtly boiling. Give it a stir every 5 minutes or so while you deal with the rice and fish.

This sauce should cook for about 20 minutes and will darken in color substantially. Just keep an eye on it.

If you're serving this with rice, you should start that now.

My fish over-defrosted a bit, hence the edges cooking, but no biggie. 

Dry the fish as best as you can with paper towels as we're going to try to sear it in a cast iron skillet. If it's wet, it'll never sear.

Season both sides with a little salt and pepper. I like a lot of salt on mine as this fish is really mild.

Fire up a cast iron skillet on the highest heat you have (or another stainless/aluminium pan - DON'T use non-stick at high temperatures by the way). 

Let it get up to temp and add a thin layer of oil to cover the bottom. Use an oil that can take high temperatures as we're going for a sear here.

Once the oil starts to shimmer and move, it's hot enough to sear.

Lay the fish in the pan carefully and don't touch it.

Drizzle a few drops of sesame oil onto the face of the fish while it sears.

You'll see the edges of the fish start to cook first. We're kind of aiming at 70/30% before the flip. 70% of the fish will be cooked through on this side before turning it over.

It'll take maybe 5-7 minutes but this depends on the fish, your burner, the oil, etc. Just poke at the under-side of the fish after 5 minutes and once it starts to release from the pan, it's ready. The Maillard Reaction will allow for the browning and subsequent release of the fish from the pan, but it won't work until it's browned.

Flip the fish carefully, drop the heat to medium and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. If you're unsure use a thermometer (140-145F) or break the fish apart. It should flake easily and not be mushy.

Your sauce should be nearly done by now. 

Notice how it has darkened.

Add in some fresh cilantro at the last minute and stir to combine.

Serve the fish over rice and spoon the sauce over top. Serve with lime wedges.

Overall this dish ended up being outstanding. It tasted very much like it came from a restaurant. The typical American "curry" flavors were there but were complimented and subdued by the sweetness of the coconut milk and the fragrant Jasmine rice. 

The veggies were nice and tender and the crispy fish was a great texture for the dish. Adding a squeeze of lime elevated it to a new level as well. I'm sure you could add some Sriracha to the dish, but I thought it was great as-is.

If you're in the mood for an Asian fish dish, definitely give this a try. It's light and delicious.



  1. Holy crap this looks awesome. I've been craving fish lately, I'm going to try this.

  2. it was really good. you should make it.

  3. Damn. I'mma let you cook it for me, okay?

  4. Hi Phil,
    Tried this last night with my father-in-law in town. Rave reviews.
    Overlooked the brown sugar, but happily the coconut milk provided some sweetness.
    Followed up the meal with some cheeses (I'm from Montreal) including a cumin havarti which provided a nice liaison with your recipe.

  5. Thank u for sharing this recipe.. i've tried it once and it was awesome!!! 👍👍


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