Not only is the yellow color of the sauce in this walleye recipe beautiful, it also packs a punch in flavor and aroma. Fresh ingredients such as lemongrass, ginger, shallot, garlic, chilies, fish sauce and lime juice are popular in Thai and Malaysian cooking, perfect for flavoring mild freshwater fish such as walleye, crappie, bluegill and catfish. This paste also works well with white-fleshed saltwater fish, such as snapper and rockfish.
If you'd like to pair this meal with wine, try a sweeter white wine such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 4 boneless walleye fillets
- 4 lemongrass stalks, lower parts only
- 2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 shallots, halved
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon Sambol Oelek chili paste
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 1 lime, juiced
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons light coconut milk
- Freshly chopped cilantro
- Salt, to taste
- 4 servings cooked white rice
- Peel off discolored, tough outer layers of lemongrass. Cut off the tough root end and discard. Slice lower part of lemongrass stalks into smaller pieces, and place them in a food processor along with ginger, shallots, garlic, Sambol Oelek chili paste, turmeric, fish sauce, lime juice, ground pepper and vegetable oil. Pulse to get ingredients as smooth as possible – the lemongrass won’t break down easily, so it’s okay if it’s a little rough.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Transfer paste to a saucepan or small skillet and turn heat to medium low. Sauté the paste to allow the ingredients to slightly soften, become aromatic and slightly reduce into a thick paste, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.
- Rinse walleye fillets under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut a large enough piece of foil to form a packet and lay it onto a cookie sheet. Lay walleye fillets onto the foil in one layer, and evenly spread the cooled lemongrass paste over the fish. Shake the coconut milk can well before opening, drizzle coconut milk over the fish, and fold the foil into a packet. Bake fish in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over fish. Serve immediately with cooked rice and extra salt (if needed).
About This Walleye with Lemongrass and Turmeric Recipe
I grew up eating a variation of this dish, except the fish was kept whole, scored, marinated in the paste overnight, and then pan seared until the skin became crispy. The whole fish was then served family style, where everyone around the dinner table would pick at it to eat with rice. Vietnamese home-cooked meals tended to be heavily salted. It allowed families to stretch their protein further, while filling up on rice or bread.
Because most American anglers fillet and skin their fish, I found that baking the fillets in the oven works best for adapting this childhood favorite. The coconut milk helps steam the fish, keeping it moist in the foil packet and creating a sauce. Baking also prevents you from having to handle the delicate fish too much, helping to keep it intact from cookie sheet to plate.