Chef's Recipes

Red curry reef fish, pickled prawns and young coconut

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for red curry reef fish, pickled prawns and young coconut.

By Nick Holloway
  • 1 hr 10 mins preparation
  • 40 mins cooking plus cooling, soaking, marinating, resting
  • Serves 4
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Red curry reef fish, pickled prawns and young coconut
“Would Nick Holloway at Nu Nu be happy to share the recipe for his red curry fish?”
Maria Alexander, Brisbane, Qld
To request a recipe, write to Fare Exchange, Australian Gourmet Traveller, GPO Box 4088, Sydney, NSW 2001, or email us. All requests should include the restaurant’s name and address or business card, as well as your name and address.


  • 50 ml white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 8 large uncooked prawns, peeled, tails intact
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 reef fish fillets (about 160gm each)
  • 180 gm green papaya (about ¼), cut into julienne on a mandolin
  • Flesh of ½ young coconut (see note)
  • 8 lychees, seeds removed
  • 4 red shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) each Thai basil, coriander and mint
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus wedges, to serve
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
  • To serve: toasted coconut flakes (see note)
Pickled shallots
  • 110 ml white vinegar
  • 75 gm caster sugar
  • 1 coriander root, scraped
  • 1 thin slice of ginger
  • ½ pickled garlic clove (see note)
  • ½ piece dried mandarin peel (see note)
  • ½ kaffir lime leaf
  • 6 small red shallots
Red curry
  • 25 gm (5cm piece) galangal, finely chopped
  • 10 coriander roots, scraped
  • 8 dried long red chillies, seeds removed, soaked in warm water until soft, drained
  • 2 small green chillies, finely chopped
  • 3 red shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1½ lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste, roasted (see note)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) coconut cream
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 white peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 tbsp soft light palm sugar
  • 100 ml chicken stock
  • To taste: fish sauce


  • 1
    Stir vinegar, sugar and 200ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat to dissolve sugar, then set aside to cool. Blanch prawns in a saucepan of boiling salted water until just pink (1-2 minutes), refresh, drain and place in a non-reactive container. Add vinegar mixture and refrigerate for flavours to develop (1 hour). Drain.
  • 2
    For pickled shallots, bring all ingredients (except shallots) and 150ml water to the simmer in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Add shallots, simmer until just tender (2-3 minutes), transfer to a bowl, cool, then refrigerate until required.
  • 3
    For red curry, pound galangal, coriander, chilli, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, roasted shrimp paste and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle to a smooth paste and set aside. Heat coconut cream in a large saucepan over low heat until cream cracks and oil rises to the surface (15 minutes; see note), add vegetable oil and reserved paste and stir-fry until fragrant (6-10 minutes). Add peppercorns and palm sugar and cook until sugar starts to caramelise (2-3 minutes). Add stock, bring to the simmer, add fish sauce to taste and keep warm.
  • 4
    Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add fish skin-side down and fry until skin is crisp (4-5 minutes). Reduce heat to low, turn fish, fry for 1 minute, then set aside in pan to rest (5 minutes).
  • 5
    Combine papaya, coconut, lychees, shallot, herbs, lime juice, pickled shallots and 100ml pickling liquid, toss to combine and add fish sauce to taste. Divide red curry among plates, top with fish, prawns and salad, scatter with toasted coconut and serve with lime wedges.


For coconut flesh, carefully remove top of coconut with a sharp knife, drain liquid and scoop out flesh with a spoon. Toast coconut flakes in a 180C oven, stirring occasionally, until golden (3-5 minutes). Pickled garlic, dried mandarin peel and shrimp paste are available from Asian grocers. To roast shrimp paste, wrap in foil and roast in 180C oven until fragrant (10-12 minutes). To ensure coconut cream cracks, use organic coconut cream.
This recipe is from the April 2013 issue of

  • Author: Nick Holloway