Asian Herb, Lime, and Ginger Salt Baked Sea Bass

I’m sharing one of my favorite fish recipes, which also happens to be the most deceptively simple main course recipes I know. You can pay a fortune for salt roasted sea bass in a restaurant, but it’s really simple to make at home. It’s a definite winner for a dinner party because not only is it fail proof and utterly delicious, but it has a gorgeous presentation! 

(serves 3 - 4)

  • 3 kg coarse sea salt
  • 1 kg whole sea bass (scaled, gutted, and cleaned thoroughly; your fishmonger can do this)
  • few cilantro sprigs with leaves
  • few basil or Thai basil leaves
  • 1 fresh Thai chile (seeded and thinly sliced)
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • few slices of fresh ginger root
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • drizzle of tamari, plus more for garnishing
  • Japanese red chile powder / shichimi togarashi (optional)
  • a little water to add to pack in the coarse se salt
  • 1 lime for garnishing (optional)
  1. Heat the over to 200 C/400 F.
  2. Spread about 1/3 of the coarse sea salt in a roasting pan large enough to fit the fish. (You’ll see from the photos that I didn’t have one large enough, so the tip of the head and tail were sticking out, but it always works like this anyway!)
  3. Stuff the cavity of the fish with the herbs, chile, lime, ginger, and scallions.
  4. Drizzle the juice of 1 lime on the fish, followed by a little tamari. (Optionally sprinkle a little Japanese red chile powder on the fish.)
  5. Bury the fish with the remaining coarse sea salt, adding a bit of water to dampen, but not soak, the salt. Pat and pack the salt so the fish is thoroughly covered.
  6. Roast the fish for 40 minutes. (The salt will turn into a hard case and might have even browned a bit.)
  7. Allow the fish to cool for a few minutes before you crack the salt open with a knife. (Don't worry, it will stay warm in it's salt case.)
  8. If serving guests, bring the whole roasting pan to the table and crack the salt open in front of everyone (to a lot of ooohs and ahhhs)
  9. Remove as much of the hard salt as possible to expose the cooked fish. You will want to remove the fish carefully so it doesn’t fall apart.
  10. Place the upper filet of the fish on a serving plate, then remove the bones to reveal the lower filet. Arrange the filets on the plate together with the roasted herbs and ginger from the fish’s cavity.
  11. Serve with a drizzle of lime juice or even a little more tamari.

Note: I’ve made this fish many times using different size fish and different ovens, and I have not once accidentally overcooked the fish. I have come to the conclusion that it’s rather impossible to mess this one up, so don’t panic about overcooking. The coarse salt prevents the fish from drying out the way it normally would when being roasted too long. I’ve been told by a friend that you can insert a knife through the dried salt and pierce the fish to see if it comes out hot—a sign that the fish is cooked.