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Braised Whole Tilapia with Ginger and Green Onions
Bplah Nin Jian King Dton Hawm (or Pla Nin Jian King Ton Hom)*

A Recipe of Kasma Loha-unchit
Recipe Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit.

See also: How to tell Fish Freshness.


  • A 1 1/2 lb. whole tilapia – also delicious with trout
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbs. finely slivered fresh ginger
  • 4 green onions, cut into very thin rounds (both white and most of green parts)
  • 3 Tbs. dark soy sauce
  • 3 Tbs. rice wine
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Chinese black vinegar
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 1/3 cup peanut oil

Whole TilapiaClean the fish, rinse and drain. Cut 2-3 slanted gashes to bone level on both sides of the fish about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Prepare the ginger and green onions. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, rice wine, black vinegar and sugar until well blended.

Heat a wok, or a skillet large enough to contain the fish, over high heat until it is hot enough to quickly evaporate a drop of water. Swirl in the oil to coat the wok surface; for a flat skillet, fill with about 1/4 inch of oil. When the oil is hot, pat the fish dry and gently slide into the pan. Fry about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, tilting the wok from side to side to allow the hot oil to evenly brown the fish from head to tail. Gently flip the fish over on its belly and brown the second side 1 1/2 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium and remove the fish from the pan. Spoon out all the oil save for 1-2 tablespoons. Toss in the slivered ginger and saute until golden brown. Spread the ginger out over enough of the wok surface to accommodate the fish and place the fish over the ginger. Sprinkle with half the green onions and spoon half the sauce over the fish. Cook over medium to medium-high heat 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is mostly dried up, tilting the wok from side to side as necessary so that both ends are braised in the sauce. Turn the fish over and sprinkle with the remaining green onions and sauce. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

Check the fish for doneness; the thickest part just below the head should be flaky down to the bone and no longer pink. If the fish is not cooked through and the sauce has dried up, add 1-2 Tbs. of water and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Carefully transfer to a serving platter. Spoon the remaining pieces of ginger and green onions over the top. Serves 3-4 family style with other dishes and rice.

Notes and Pointers:

This is an old family recipe from a Chinese ancestry. My mother made it from time to time while I was growing up. It was one of those simple, mild dishes that made fish taste so delicate and delicious to a child, enough to make me empty my plate of rice every time it was served. But then, mother's cooking was so good I seldom had problems finishing up my rice.

Tilapia braised in this sauce really does taste delicate, so does perch, cod, striped bass and other mild, medium- to medium-firm, white flesh fish.

*Because the Thai language has its own script, there are different ways of transliterating Thai into English. The more phonetic version is Bplah Nin Jian King Dton Hawm; the more usual spelling is Pla Nin Jian King Ton Hom. See A Note on Thai Pronunciation and Spelling.

Recipe Copyright © 2000 Kasma Loha-unchit in Dancing Shrimp. All rights reserved.

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