"Lijiang’s market (China) was the first building in the entire town, and has been its focal point for hundreds of years. The produce is both amazing and surprising, and the place buzzes with energy. I decided to cook this dish right in the middle of the market — a big mistake! Locals demanded that I first catch my own fish with my bare hands, then kept laughing and pointing while I was grilling the fish. It was nerve-racking, but fun." – Chef Luke Nguyen

SERVES 4, as part of a shared meal


800 g whole carp or barramundi, cleaned
generous pinch of chilli flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
½ teaspoon sea salt
10 large whole dried red chillies
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 young garlic shoot, finely diced
2 spring onions (scallions)
2 tablespoons roasted crushed unsalted peanuts
250 ml vegetable oil
20 mint leaves


Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue chargrill to medium-high. Season the fish with a generous pinch of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chilli flakes. Rub the fish with 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, then chargrill on each side for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, dry-roast the Sichuan peppercorns and sea salt in a heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat until the peppercorns become aromatic. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl to cool a little.

Heat the remaining peanut oil in the same pan, then add the dried chillies and cook for 1 minute, or until they become darker all over. Add the diced garlic and garlic shoot and stir-fry over medium-high heat until slightly golden; take care not to let the chillies burn.

Now add the spring onion, peanuts and the dry-roasted Sichuan peppercorn and salt mixture. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds, then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil to 170˚C (325˚F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 20 seconds. Flash-fry the mint leaves in small batches for a few seconds, just until crisp but not browned. Drain well on paper towels. 

Once the fish has finished cooking, transfer it to a platter. Spoon the spice and peanut mixture over the top, garnish with the fried mint leaves and serve.

Recipe from Luke's Book - From China to Vietnam: A Journey Down the Mekong River. Click here to purchase the book now.

Phuong Nguyen