Grilled Whole Fish with Chili Soy Dipping Sauce

Slideshow shows step by step: how to grill whole fish:

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I have yet to go fishing in the local waters here, well okay maybe I need to count the time I friend Judy took me and the kids to the state park. We used squirmy worms as bait on their kiddie fishing poles and caught fish so small it was probably from someone else’s bait bucket.

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But there’s all sorts of delish fish in these Tampa Bay waters and I was lucky enough to bump into fisherman Phillip hauling a coolerful of Black Mullet, Silver Mullet and Bluefish from that morning’s outing. I was so excited that I bought one of each. I should have just paid Phillip an extra $5 to scale them for me, because scaling three fish in my kitchen sink is not the most fun thing to do. Slippery, transparent fish scales ricocheting off the knife and flying into my eyes totally sucked. At the end of it, I looked like a blind Loch Ness monster.

When I published this recipe in my Tampa Tribune column, I got several emails from readers saying they thought my photo of the whole fish with its face was really creepy. REALLLLLY!??? Well, you know us Asians, we like to eat every part of our food, nothing goes to waste, which means head and tail. I seriously can’t believe that so many people are weirded out by looking at their food.

Have we become so McProcessed that we have forgotten where our food comes from and what it looks like?

Grilled Whole Fish with Chili Soy Dipping Sauce

The type of fish they use is really up to you. I love grilling whole red snapper or anything locally caught. The Bluefish was the perfect size to feed my family of four and I decided to grill it whole on the outdoor grill. Having a fish grill basket really helps keep the fish intact and all of the herbs inside the fish. The last thing you want is your precious fish break and fall through the grill grates! I found the perfect sized basket at Sur La Table for $25.00. You can use any fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, parsley, dill. for my recipe, I used sliced ginger, sliced key lime, green onions and kaffir lime leaves that grow in my garden.serves 4 as part of a multicourse meal

Whole fish, scaled and gutted (one 3-5 lb fish or two 1-1/2 lb fish)
cooking oil, for brushing
salt and pepper
Big handful of fresh herbs
2 lemons/limes or 1 orange
3 inch section of fresh ginger, sliced thinly
additional lemon or lime wedges for the table

For the Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 to 1 fresh chili pepper, sliced thinly (depends on your heat preference)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Pre-heat your outdoor grill. Clean the fish inside and out, and pat very dry. Cut 3-4 vertical slashes to the bone on each side of the fish. Brush the fish inside and out with cooking oil. Season the fish with salt and pepper inside and out. Stuff the fish with the fresh herbs, citrus slices and ginger slices inside the fish and tuck them inside the slashes.

Place the fish inside a fish grill basket and close the basket. Grill for 6-8 minutes on direct heat (covered) then flip the basket and grill another 6-8 minutes (covered). The fish is done when it flakes easily at the thickest part of the fish.

To make the dipping sauce, heat a small sauce pot over medium high heat. Add the cooking oil and when hot, add the garlic and the chili peppers. Cook for 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce and sugar and let cook for another 15 seconds. Serve the sauce with lemon/lime wedges with the fish.

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