• Melisa Smith

Salt Baked Whole Fish

Salt Baked Whole Fish

Baking a whole fish encrusted in salt makes a very impressive yet very simple meal to prepare for a feast. A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach and don't worry, because the fish has it's skin and scales intact, it will never absorb too much salt. Any cleaned whole fish with scales still on will work but this has got to be the most beautiful fish I've ever prepared. It's called a Parrot Fish and this one was from Vietnam, although this species can be found in many different places in the world.

I purchased this frozen and I was really impressed with the quality. Even though it had been in my freezer for a few months it was wonderful! I was amazed at how clear the eyes were when we thawed it out in the refrigerator overnight.

The fish was whole and had not been cleaned in any way so my hubby cleaned the fish but left the scales on. I made up a quick batch of the baking salt mixture and cut up a lemon and some rosemary and that's all there is to it. You could salt and pepper the inside of the fish but I didn't. I hadn't had Parrot Fish before so I didn't want to cover the flavor of the fish too much and I guess that was the right thing to do because this is a very mild fish. It seemed almost like a very large rainbow trout from the ocean. I love the briny smell of fresh ocean fish and this smelled wonderful before and after cooking it.

We had invited some friends over last week and I had been waiting to prepare this fish until we had a group joining us for dinner because the fish was so large (almost 3 pounds). It seemed the perfect time. Especially because one of my friends is from Vietnam and she loves fish! She was so excited when we opened the salt casing to revealed this beautiful fish. She immediately went to work decorating it for serving with a bunch of cherry tomatoes still ripening on my kitchen counter.

In Vietnam, this is the kind of meal served family style at the table with some Nuoc Cham so I made some of that to go with it. The interesting thing she told me was that in Vietnam when they made this kind of whole baked fish, they used clay mud instead of salt. I wonder if that seasons the fish with any different mineral tastes depending on where you get the mud?

The Reveal!

Here is a short slide show showing how I put this together.

After removing the baked fish from the oven I let it sit on the counter for 10 minutes.

Then you wack it with a knife along the spine of the fish making a crack all along it's back.

Then the salt will lift right off of the fish in one large piece. Ta Da! Isn't that cool?

The salt crust keeps all the moisture of the fish inside as it bakes making it nearly impossible for the fish to become too dried out and it only takes about 40 minutes for a fish this size to bake.

Such a beautiful meal! I've used this method many times with several different species of fish and it's always a show stopper and tastes great.



Salt Baked Whole Fish


1 large whole fish or 2 smaller (about 3 pounds total), skin and scales on, gutted and cleaned

2 pounds of any salt you like. I used kosher salt for this fish.

4 egg whites, beaten (save the yolks for something else)

1/3 cup water

some aromatics for stuffing the cavity of the fish

Note * If your fish is larger you may need to use more salt, egg white and water accordingly


Preheat an oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the salt, the beaten egg whites and water.

Make a bed with a little less than 1/2 of this mixture on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper then lay the fish on top of that and then cover the entire fish with the rest of the mixture to seal in the moisture.

Bake the whole fish in the oven at 400 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes. You can temp the fish by using a meat thermometer poked into the thickest part of the fish. It should be at 135-140 degrees when removed from the oven.

Let the fish rest 10 minutes before removing the salt casing as shown above.

#fish #wholefish #parrotfish #saltbaked #bakedinsalt #wholefishbakedinsalt

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Copywrite © 2019 by Melisa Smith