Vietnamese Fish with Cilantro

4.67 from 18 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This Vietnamese fish recipe is one of the easier dishes on this website, a dish to make on a busy weeknight that comes together in about the same time it takes to make the steamed rice that goes along with it. It’s total Asian comfort food: Crispy pieces of fish bathed in a simple sauce, served with onions, chiles and lots of cilantro.

Crispy Vietnamese fish in a bowl with chopsticks.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I first found this recipe in my friend Andrea Nguyen’s great book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors. She uses catfish for her version, but I prefer a firmer fish such as snapper, walleye, seabass or lingcod. Virtually any firm fish will work here, however. 

This is an unusual Vietnamese fish recipe in that the fish is cut into chunks, not served whole. To that end, there is no reason you couldn’t follow this exact same recipe using a small, whole fish that has been scaled, gilled and gutted. If you do that, just make a few slashes in the sides so the fish cooks faster. 

The key to success with this dish is to not overcook the fish. The easiest way to achieve this is to crisp just one side of the fish, letting the simmering sauce cook the rest of the fish gently. You can of course sear both sides if you want, but if you do, make sure you are really searing it quickly, over high heat.

Fresh ginger is important here; don’t use dried. So is the fish sauce. Fish sauce is a little like soy sauce in that it is a source of salty savoriness, but flavorwise they are very different. Most supermarkets carry fish sauce now. If you have a choice, my favorites are Three Crabs and Red Boat. Use soy sauce if you absolutely cannot find fish sauce. 

Don’t like cilantro? Use mint or watercress, or even parsley, although parsley’s not used much in Vietnamese cooking. If you want to really be authentic, use rau ram, an herb native to Southeast Asia that tastes like cilantro. You can buy seeds or starter plants online. 

Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 16)

Everything comes together quickly, so do all your prep before you start cooking. I generally start the rice, then the prep, then cook the Vietnamese fish — that way it all comes together at once. 

And yes, I know this is not a very challenging recipe. No fish skin chicharrons or crispy fried duck tongues here. Just wanted to let you know that I can do easy, too. Cheers!

Crispy Vietnamese fish in a bowl with chopsticks.
4.67 from 18 votes

Vietnamese Crispy Fish with Cilantro

I normally use a wok to make this recipe, but a deep-sided sauté pan or frying pan is just as good. You can use any fish here, but I prefer a lean, white fish. Good choices would be lingcod, Pacific rockfish, tilefish, walleye, yellow perch, catfish, red drum, cobia, sturgeon, striped bass, haddock... you get the point. Serve this with simple steamed rice and you have a great weekday dinner.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 pounds lean white fish, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 large onion, about 3 cups, sliced thin from root to stem
  • A piece of ginger about the size of your thumb, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 to 5 jalapenos or other hot chiles, seeded and sliced thin
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 2 limes


  • Sprinkle salt over the fish. Heat the peanut oil in a large sauté pan or wok and add the fish. Sear the fish in the oil so one side of it gets a nice, golden brown crust. Don't flip the fish, as you will finish cooking it later. Remove each piece of fish as it browns.
  • When all the fish is done, add the onions and ginger and a little more oil if needed. Stir-fry over very high heat until the edges of the onions begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, jalapeno chiles, fish sauce and water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the fish and gently toss everything to combine. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Gently mix in the cilantro and turn off the heat. Add the lime juice and serve with steamed rice.


Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 1534mg | Potassium: 813mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 248IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Oyster Stew

A recipe for Southern oyster stew, a simple, brothy, creamy soup that highlights fresh oysters. It’s a tradition in the South and, surprisingly, the Midwest.

Panzanella di Mare

Panzanella di mare is an Italian bread salad with tinned fish. This is a winter panzanella with black kale, squash and sage. It’s versatile, too.

Mahi Mahi Ceviche

A mahi mahi ceviche recipe inspired by ceviches I’ve eaten in Baja California. Dorado ceviche is common there, and often uses fruit like mango or pineapple.

Eat more Burbot

How to cook burbot, also called eelpout, ling, lawyer fish and mariah. Burbot are a freshwater cod, and are wonderful table fare.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. I made this with blue rockfish, fairly thin filets, and it was wonderful! I can’t wait to try this with lingcod or small tail filets of halibut.

  2. This has become a go-to recipe for us. Gotta admit, I fry the fish outdoors on the high-heat burner and finish indoors. I love the smashed ginger suggested above and will try that next time, because there’s gonna be a next time. Thanks, Hank.

  3. My wife is Vietnamese and a great trick she taught me was to cut two quarter size pieces of ginger- 1/4 inch thick.
    Place the ginger flat on a cutting board and smash them just to almost break apart. Use the flat of a butcher knife agaist the ginger on the board and your palm to smack it. Your slightly expanding the ginger.. not turning it to pulp.
    Fry those two pieces in the oil until they turn brown.
    Take them out and use the ginger infused oil to make your fish.
    It really knocks down the fishyness of your fish.

  4. This is amazing. I was a foolishly afraid of the ginger, jalapenos, and cilantro… This is just so good. I’ve made it with Lingcod, larger rockfish, and Halibut. Just killer.

  5. Thank you Hank. I am not a great cook and stumbled my way through this easy recipe making some mistakes as I went. My hopes weren’t very high when I was done, but when I tried it I was almost unsettled by how amazingly delicious it was. Truly great flavor and I know I will make it even better next time. Thanks again.

  6. Thanks again, Hank. This was delicious. A very simple dish with no hard to find ingredients and no expert technique is required. If you are reading reviews and thinking of making this, do it and, as Hank might say, you will not be sad. Contrary to another reviewer’s comment, I did not find this to be overly fishy. I thought the flavors were very balanced. It does taste like fish but that’s probably only because it IS fish. The only thing I will do differently next time is to modify the heat level. I used 3 seeded jalapenos and I didn’t get any heat. This is not a flaw in the recipe but rather due to the fickle nature of the jalapeno itself. Hank, I bow before thee, Oh Exalted One. Your recipes never disappoint. 🙂

  7. Made this with swai and it did stick a little. Used canola oil plus a dash of sesame oil Used 1/8 tsp of red chili paste mixed with the water instead of Jalapenos. Omitted fish sauce. Delicious! Thanks for the ideas!

  8. Well, here I thought ling cod couldn’t get any better! This recipe was delicious. Frying the ling on one side made the result so delicate and tender. I used mint instead of cilantro which worked great. Over rice, with pear-arugala salad, fresh summer peaches… I want to make this every night! It was so easy I may just do that. The fish sauce gave it a yummy tangy flavor. About fish sticking to pan: I have found if I get the oil super hot and make sure whatever I pop in the pan is dry, sticking is greatly reduced. Thanks for another great recipe!

  9. I’m not having much luck. The fish stuck to the bottom of an expensive ceramic nonstick skillet even after doubling the amount of oil in hopes that it would float a little. Maybe I used the wrong kind of fish. I used Swai, or Asian catfish.

    It’s done and I think I’m going to puke. The fish sauce INCREASED the fish odor 1000 times. I don’t mind a little fishiness, but this is horrible. I’m afraid to eat it.BLECH!

  10. Awesome variation for fish lovers! Easy and tasty. I didn’t have peanut oil so I used sesame oil and it was great!