Baked fish can be so bland. So dial up the delicious factor by slathering with an Asian BBQ Sauce, then roast until caramelised! Savoury, sweet, with a hint of spice and a whole lot of yum. We’re making Baked Barramundi here, but almost any firm white fish will work for this recipe.
Asian Glazed Baked Barramundi
The reason pan-fried fish is so much tastier than just sticking it in the oven is because you get good browning. Colour = flavour with anything, whether it’s vegetables or meats. Fish fillets simply cook too quickly in the oven to get any colour on them.
So how do you make baked fish tastier and more interesting? You could:
Bake it with a sauce – like in this Baked Fish with Lemon Cream Sauce (long time reader favourite!);
Serve it with an assertive sauce, such as:
You can slather it with what we’re calling an Asian BBQ Sauce, which caramelises beautifully in the 20 minutes it takes to bake fish perfectly in the oven! Just think your favourite BBQ sauce like we use on pork ribs – but with Asian flavours. Savoury, sweet, a hum of spice and tons of flavour!
What you need for the Asian BBQ Sauce Glaze
Here’s what you need for the Asian BBQ Sauce Glaze:
Chinese Five Spice – A store-bought mix of spices used extensively in Chinese cooking made with (wait for it…) FIVE different spices. I know, you fell off your chair in shock. 😂 Commonly found nowadays in grocery stores;
Sichuan pepper – For a hint of the Sichuan pepper signature cool-and-numbing heat. It’s really not a big deal if you leave it out however. Just add a dash of pepper instead;
Sambal oelek – A chunky chilli paste for a hint of chilli heat. Don’t have it? Just use sriracha or other similar Asian chilli paste;
Chinese black vinegar OR rice vinegar – Black vinegar has a distinctive flavour, rich and dark, a bit like Asian-y balsamic. So it does add a touch more flavour into the glaze while also deepening the colour of the glaze. But it really is not a big deal if you use rice vinegar instead;
Soy sauce – Either all-purpose or light soy sauce. Don’t use dark soy sauce, it will be far too intense. More on different types of soy sauces here;
Honey – The main sweet element. Substitute with maple syrup or brown sugar;
Mirin – A Japanese cooking wine used to add depth of flavour, and a little sweetness. Substitute with Chinese cooking wine, Japanese cooking sake, or if you can’t have alcohol, chicken stock (see recipe notes);
Garlic and ginger – Fresh, please!
Sesame oil – Toasted, ie. the bronze-coloured sesame oil, because it has more sesame flavour. Untoasted sesame oil is yellow, and is harder to find in Australia; and
Cornflour/cornstarch – Used to thicken the glaze.
Fish for Asian Glazed Baked Fish
I used barramundi in this recipe. The meaty and juicy flesh makes it ideal for the bold flavour of the glaze, and the fillets are thick enough to make them suitable for cooking in the oven.
See below for a list of other suitable fish .Any thick-ish, firm, white fish fillets will work a treat here!
Skin on or off? Either is fine, it really won’t affect the bake time. But the skin won’t be crispy. If this is a turn-off for you, just eat the flesh and leave the skin.
Other fish suitable to use
This recipe is suitable for most fish fillets around 2.5cm/1″ thick. We need it that thick so it doesn’t cook through too quickly before the glaze has a chance to caramelise (~18 minutes).
Fillets this thick will generally come off a larger fish. Here are some suggestions:
Snapper (if a large fish)
Tilapia – the thick part (reduce oven cook time to 12 minutes)
Pollock (aka coley)
Striped bass (not all bass is suitable), hake, gummy shark
Salmon or ocean trout also work but there might be too much flavour going on as the glaze is quite intense!
Remember, the shape of fish means that you get thick cuts from the main body as well as thin cuts from towards the tail. Opt for the thicker cuts!
Fish to avoid
I recommend avoiding:
Fish that dry out easily when cooked – Like swordfish, tuna, bonito, kingfish, marlin, mackerel. Unless you’re extremely careful they can become dry inside so are very prone to overcooking in the oven. I feel these fish are (mostly) better in raw/rare form such as Ceviche, Poke Bowls, Tartare;
Delicate fish, thin-filleted, long narrow or small fish – Like flounder, sole, plaice, whiting, bream, dory, basa, hoki, flathead, deep sea perch (Orange Roughy). These fillets are too thin or too long and narrow to cook in the oven using this glaze because they cook too quickly; and
Oily, “fishy” fish – Like mullet and sardines.
How to make Asian Glazed Baked Barramundi
I wish more recipes of mine only had FOUR process step photos! 😂
Simmer Glaze – Place all the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and simmer;
Thicken to paste – Simmer for a few minute until it becomes very thick. It needs to be borderline paste-like so it sticks on the fish. If it’s just syrupy, the sauce will just slide off the fish;
Brush/dab glaze on to the fish – the top and the sides; and
Bake then broil/grill – Bake for 15 minutes at 180°C/350°F, then switch to the grill/broiler for 3 minutes to get a gorgeous caramelisation on the surface. Really, don’t skip this step! You get great extra flavour. 🙂
The target internal temperature of white fish cooked in the oven is 55°C/131°F. More on this below.
Target internal temperature of baked fish
For white fish fillets, I target an internal temperature of 55°C/131°F (to take fish out of oven, aka “pull temperature”) which is medium doneness. For fish, this means it is just-cooked, ie. very juicy, moist flesh that is not rare or raw at all. The residual heat as it rests will increase the internal temperature a few degrees, to give a final reading of around 58°C/136°F.
The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 63°C/145˚F, which is medium-well done. This is safe for all types of white fish because it is thoroughly cooked. However you will find that for leaner fish such as cod, it is not as juicy as it could be at this temperature.
If you ask chefs, you’ll find that many will target an internal temperature of 50°C/122°F (pull temperature). This is just medium, which means the fish is at its absolute optimum juiciness. For home cooks however, this can be a tricky act to ensure the fish isn’t underdone.
So in my view, it’s safest to target 55°C/131°F. Even if you overshoot it a bit, the fish will still be far from overcooked. This is also a good target internal temperature for roasted fish according to notable Australian seafood cookery experts such as Josh Niland, chef/owner of the critically-acclaimed Saint Peter fish restaurant and Fish Butchery in Sydney. He is author of award-winning book The Whole Fish Cookbook (page 209 for roasting temperatures).
What to serve with Asian Glazed Baked Barramundi
The glaze and juices from the fish are flavourful enough to serve it with plain steamed rice. Choose from white, jasmine, basmati or brown rice. Or for a low-carb option, cauliflower rice (really, it’s not just healthy but delicious!).
For flavoured rice options, try one of these:
As for vegetables and salads to serve on the side, here are some suggestions:
It’s dawned on me writing this that I’m a little short on Asian side salads. Time to start building up my stash. 🤔 Keep an eye out for more in the coming weeks! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Asian Glazed Baked Barramundi (or other fish)
- 4 x 180g / 6oz barramundi fillets , skinless, boneless; or other ~2.5cm / 1" thick firm white fish fillets (Note 1)
- 4 tsp cornflour / cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
- 5 tbsp soy sauce , all-purpose or light soy sauce (Note 2)
- 4 tbsp honey (else maple syrup or 5 tbsp brown sugar)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp mirin (Note 4)
- 1 tsp sambal oelek , or other Asian chilli paste / sauce (Note 5)
- 1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice (Note 6)
- 1 clove garlic , finely minced
- 1 tsp ginger , finely grated
- 1/4 tsp Sichuan pepper , or white pepper (Note 7)
- Sesame seeds
- Green onions (Note 8)
- Large red chilli, finely sliced
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan). Line a tray with parchment/baking paper. Place shelf in middle of oven.
- Cornflour slurry: Mix water and cornflour in a small bowl.
- Make glaze: Place remaining glaze ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add cornflour slurry then stir well. Cook it for a further 2 minutes until it thickens into a thick paste – thick enough so it stays on the fish when brushed on. See photo in post or video. If it is just a thick syrup, it will slide off the fish.
- Brush glaze on Fish: Place fish fillets on tray. Dab/brush paste on on the top and sides.
- Bake then broil/grill: Bake fish for 15 minutes. Then flick to broiler/grill on high, and cook for 3 minutes to caramelise the surface. Target an internal temperature of 55°C/131°F for medium, which is just cooked but not raw at all. Fish temperature will continue to rise to 58°C/136.5°F during resting.
- Jewfish (mulloway)
- Snapper (if a large fish)
- Tilapia – the thick part (reduce oven cook time to 12 minutes)
- Cod (any)
- Pollock (aka Coley)
- Emperor (grouper)
- Stripe bass (not all bass is suitable), hake, gummy shark
- Salmon or ocean trout also work but there might be too much flavour going on as the glaze is quite intense!
More baked fish recipes
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