Video: How to make Cambodian chilli fish

Hamish Hain Seng Te shows how to make Cambodian garlic chilli fish.

Hamish Hain Seng Te.
Hamish Hain Seng Te.
Hain Seng Te, known as Hamish, and his family came to New Zealand in 1979 to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of Cambodia.

He and his wife had two daughters and a son when they arrived, and three more boys were born in New Zealand.

They started a Khmer Satay caravan in 1988 in the Octagon and then a chain of 22 restaurants, which he had since sold to family and friends because he wanted to start again, he said.

Now he runs Khmer Satay Noodle House in Northeast Valley and makes peanut sauce and marinades that are sold in supermarkets.

Garlic chilli fish is a dish Hamish developed.

It's very spicy but you can vary the amount of chilli to suit your taste.


Hamish's garlic chilli fish. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
Hamish's garlic chilli fish. Photos by Gregor Richardson.
Garlic chilli fish


300g thick fish fillets
2 bulbs garlic
5-15 small red chillies
4 Tbsp salted soy beans
2 Tbsp sugar
a piece of fresh ginger about the size of a small egg or very large walnut
3 lemons
1 lettuce
1-2 tomatoes, finely sliced
½ red onion, finely sliced and separated into rings
cornflour for coating fish
about ½-litre oil for deep frying

For garnish

1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic finely chopped and fried until crunchy



First make the sauce:

Separate the garlic cloves and peel roughly by cutting off the root end and the tips to remove the papery skin. Place in a blender. Add the whole chillies, sugar and the salted soy beans. Peel the ginger, slice finely into thin batons and add to the blender.

Slice the ends off the lemons and cut into wedges. With a sharp knife remove pips and any fibrous bits from the centre, then slice the flesh off the pith and skin, and add to the blender.

Blend until it turns into a paste.

Heat oil in a pan.

Cut the fish into chunks about 2-3cm thick. Dust each piece thickly with cornflour and add to the hot oil. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes. If it cooks too long it will be dry.

Arrange slices of lettuce on a plate. Decorate around the edge with tomato and onion slices.

When the fish is cooked, pile it in the centre.

Heat the sauce with a little water to thin it. Taste, adding more sugar if necessary. When the sauce is hot, spoon it over the fish.

Garnish with sliced spring onion, sliced chilli, and/or crispy fried garlic, if you like.



• Salted soy beans are fermented and used widely in Southeast Asian cuisine, often mixed with other pungent ingredients such as garlic, chilli and ginger, as here. Hamish uses Yeo's brand.

Thanks to Afife Harris and Centre City New World.

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