Barramundi in Sian Spiced Coconut Milk
4 barramundi, sea bass, grouper or tilapia fillets (each 6 to 8 ounces and about 3/4 inch thick), checked over for bones
1 shallot, large, finely chopped
3 clove garlic, minced
2 stalk lemongrass, fresh, trimmed and minced
1 piece galangal, fresh (1 inch), minced
2 Serrano chilli, or Thai, minced (for milder sauce, seed the chillies)
2 tbsp vegetable oil, preferably peanut
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
2 cups coconut milk, canned or fresh
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice, fresh
1 tsp sugar, palm or light brown sugar
2 limes leaves, kaffir, cut crosswise into hair-thin slivers
1. Rinse the fillets under cold running water, then drain and blot dry with paper towels. Place the fillets in a non-reactive baking dish just large enough to hold them flat in a single layer. Set aside while you prepare the marinade/sauce.
2. Combine the shallot, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, galangal, and chillies in a mortar and pound to a thick paste with the pestle (or process in a food processor). Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp paste and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shallot paste and saute, stirring constantly, until brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and half the kaffir lime leaves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer the mixture until thick and richly
flavoured, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
4. Pour half of the cooled sauce over the fish in the baking dish, refrigerating the remainder, covered, until just before serving. Turn the fish once or twice to coat, then cover, and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 2 hours, turning the pieces occasionally so they marinate evenly.
5. Preheat the grill to high.
6. When ready to cook, preheat a fish or vegetable grate for 5 minutes (if using), then oil it or the grill grate. Remove the fish fillets from the marinade and arrange on the hot grate. Grill 3 to 6 minutes, then turn over carefully with a long spatula and grill until the fish breaks into firm flakes when pressed with a finger, 3 to 6 minutes more. While the fish cooks, heat the reserved sauce in a saucepan on the side burner of the grill, if you have one, or over low heat on the stovetop.
7. Using a spatula, transfer the fillets to serving plates or a platter and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish each piece of fish with a tuft of shredded kaffir lime leaves and serve at once.