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Thai Salt Crust Grilled Fish – Pla Pao

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Thai Salt Crust Sea Bream

Salt crust fish done this way is out of this world gorgeous.


Be sure to watch the step by step video below of this Thai salt crust grilled fish.

This is one of my favourite ways to prepare fish. Thai salt crust grilled fish might sound a bit strange to some but it is so good. For best results, ask your fishmonger for unscaled fish.

The skin isn’t eaten and the scales add an extra layer for keeping the moisture in.

In this case, I wasn’t able to get unscaled sea bream but the results were still out of this world gorgeous!

Thai salt crust grilled fish can be made with sea bream or any similar fish such as sea bass. This is a fantastic and easy way to prepare seafood as the salt helps keep the moisture in the meat and not in the coals.

This leaves you will super tender and moist meat that is to die for. I love to pick the meat right off the bones and top it with the spicy, sweet, savoury and sour seafood dipping sauce.

Thai salt crust grilled fish might be really simple but with that seafood sauce, it takes it to a whole new level.

Salting the Thai salt crust fish

I prefer a flaky salt like Maldon. Here I used a rock salt which worked well too. Add just a drop of water to make a salt paste.

Thai salt crust fish

Pat the salt paste liberally over the skin on both sides.

Thai salt crust fish

Cook the fish over low heat for 40 minutes. The salt will keep the fish lush!

The 40 minute cooking time is important. This is done over a really low heat. If you have a Kamado Joe, using the heat deflectors will help with this.

You could also do this on any barbecue. Just keep the heat down. Mixing the hot coals with ash will help keep the heat down.

Turn the fish regularly so that it browns nicely on both sides.

While the fish is cooking, you can prepare the seafood sauce.

Making Thai seafood sauce

I start by crushing the garlic.

Making Thai seafood sauce

Then I add the chillies. Use larger chillies and remove the seeds if you don’t want it to be really spicy.

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt Crust Fish

Pound away until you have a course paste.

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt Crust fish

Add sugar to taste. I usually start with a couple of teaspoons and add more if necessary.

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt crust fish

Add the fish sauce. This gives the sauce a salty flavour.

As with all Thai food, it is important to taste as you go so that you get the perfect flavour combination for your tastes.

Add the salty, sweet, spicy and sour ingredients and then adjust as you go.

If you love Thai food as much as I do, you might want to try these too!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might like to try some of these Thai favourites:

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt crust fish

Stir in the oyster sauce for a bit of sweet and salty flavour.

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt crust fish

Add the lime juice for a sour flavour.

Making Thai seafood sauce for Thai Salt crust fish

Mix it all up well. I add the coriander (cilantro) just before serving so that it looks really fresh.

Thai Salt Crust Sea Bream

All you need to do now is peel that skin back and dig in.

Yield: 2 - 4

Thai Salt Crust Fish With Seafood Sauce

Thai Salt Crust Sea Bream
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour


  • 2 large whole sea bream (about 1 kilo, 2 lbs each) – cleaned but not scaled
  • 280g approx. (1 cup) course sea salt
  • Water as needed
  • 10 kaffir lime leaves or one thinly sliced lime
  • 6 green bird’s eye chillies – roughly chopped
  • 4 – 6 red bird’s eye chillies – roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 3 tbsp coriander – leaves and stems
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) lime juice
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Salt if needed


  1. Pour the salt into a bowl and mix it with just a tablespoon or two of water until it is fluffy and slightly moist to the touch.
  2. Start rubbing the salt all over the fish, pressing down slightly to help it stick. Flip the fish over and do the same on the other side.
  3. Stuff with the Kaffir lime leaves in the cavities. Use fresh Kaffir lime leaves if you have them but sliced limes will work almost as well.
  4. Set up your BBQ for direct heat cooking. It is essential that your coals not be too hot.
  5. Grilling fish over hot direct heat would normally only take about 8 – 10 minutes. You want to slow this down so that the fish cooks slowly. Turn the fish often.
  6. The cooking process over the low heat should take about 40 minutes so adjust the heat accordingly.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the seafood sauce. Place the chillies and garlic in a pestle and mortar or food processor and pound or blend to a chunky paste.
  8. Add the remaining ingredients and taste. Add more sugar and/or a little salt if desired.
  9. After about 40 minutes, your bream should be cooked through and blackened slightly in a few places but not char grilled. You should still be able to see the white salt
  10. To serve, place the fish on a warm platter. Peel the skin off the fish. Sometimes I use scissors or a sharp knife to help remove the skin. Cut into the meat and dip away!

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mohan kumar

Friday 21st of February 2020

Thank you so much for sharing with us. This look so fresh and delecious.

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