How to Grill Salt-Crusted Fish
Chef Palak Patel demonstrates the salt crusting technique along with Indian accompaniments on Epicurious.
Epicurious 4 Levels videos feature a professional chef from the Institute of Culinary Education demonstrating aspirational techniques alongside amateur and advanced cooks. In the latest episode, ICE Chef Palak Patel showcases salt crusting with porgy, a white fish also known as pink snapper, which she grills and pairs with a corn salad.
Chef Palak demonstrates how to clean a whole fish, salt the inside of the cavity and pack the porgy in a salt oven before cooking on a grill. She pickles red onions for color, grills corn for caramelization, adds Anaheim peppers for sweetness, and uses two types of citrus: Meyer lemon and lime for tanginess.
The seafood dish reminds her of a vacation in South India, where charred corn salad is popular. The salt-crusted fish is finished with mustard oil and curry leaves to complement the spices used in the salt bed.
Watch the video for pro tips and get the complete recipe below.
Grilled Salt Crusted Fish and Charred Indian Corn
Yields 8-10 servings
Before culinary school, I traveled to Kerala on the coastal tip of India. Kerala is known for fresh fish and the locals pride themselves on their variety of preparations. I still recall waking up at 6 a.m. and approaching the local fisherman on the beach to place my order for dinner! Eating freshly caught white fish, perfectly charred and served on a banana leaf sprinkled with sea salt and Indian lime made for one of the most memorable dinners of my life.
- 1 large porgy (approx. 7 pounds)
- 1 box kosher salt
- 8 egg whites
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup fennel seeds
- 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
- 2 Meyer lemons, sliced
- 2 limes, sliced
- 1 Anaheim pepper, sliced
- Water, as needed
- Kosher salt, as needed
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
- Using a mortar and pestle, grind peppercorns, coriander seeds, fennel seeds to a rough consistency.
- Trim the fish fin from the bottom and top. Clean the inside and season with salt, place lemon, lime, peppers, and curry leaves in the cavity.
- In an extra-large bowl, add egg whites, spices, salt and make a paste that mimics wet sand. Add water as needed to form a firm salt ball that doesn’t break apart.
- Rub a thin layer of the flaxseed oil onto the cast-iron pan.
- Add a layer of the salt mixture on the surface of the cast-iron pan in the shape of the fish. Gently place the fish on top and pack the outside of the fish with the salt mixture.
- Place the steel on the grill and cook until the temperature of the fish registers 140 degrees.
- Carefully remove the stone and let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Use a heavy bottom spoon to crack the salt and brush away salt from the skin.
- Remove the fish and serve on a platter with lemon, drizzle of mustard oil, and corn salad (recipe below).
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 1/4 cup avocado oil
- 1 sprig of curry leaf
- Heat oil on medium-high heat until it is lightly smoking.
- Add mustard seeds and curry leaves.
- Remove from heat and drizzle on fish.
Indian Charred Corn Salad
- 10 ears white corn
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
- 4 limes, juiced
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons dried mango powder
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- Limes wedges, for garnish
- In a bowl, add red wine vinegar, red onions, and set aside.
- In another bowl, add lime juice, spices, salt, pepper, maple syrup and whisk well. Drizzle with olive oil to incorporate.
- Shuck the corn and be sure to remove all the fibers of the corn.
- Turn on the side stove on the grill to medium-high heat and place the corn directly on the fire. Using tongs, turn the corn frequently as you hear popping sounds and the kernels begin to char. Rotating the corn on all sides until evenly charred.
- Take on corn at a time and place straight up on a cookie sheet, the base down and the thin end facing up. Using a sharp knife all scrape the kernels off the cob going in rows.
- Remove onions from vinegar and add to corn kernels with jalapenos; toss them together. Season with salt.
- Garnish with cilantro and wedge of lime.
Dive into professional fish butchery and cooking in Culinary Arts at ICE.