Indulge in the ultimate flavor explosion with the perfect combination of textures that is the red curry fried fish sandwich! Imagine sinking your teeth into a crispy, golden-fried fish fillet, perfectly seasoned and accompanied by the aromatic spices of Thai red curry! The red curry adds a fiery kick to the already delightful fish, infusing each bite with a delectable blend of heat and richness. Combined with the soft, pillowy bread and a slaw of fresh, crunchy papaya, this sandwich delivers a textural symphony that will leave you craving for more. Whether you’re a fan of Thai cuisine or simply looking to elevate your sandwich game, this red curry and fried fish combination will not disappoint.
The inspiration for these sandwiches
A long time ago I made a fried fish sandwich where I put red curry flavoring in between the batter and the fish itself. I think it was loosely inspired by Popeyes spicy chicken strips if I am being honest! The way the seasoning is on that chicken is so good. In the end the meal I made was “just OK” the red curry ended up getting a little lost though. I also just topped it with the usual lettuce and tomato so I think that helped it feel a little bland.
This time around, I thought I would smother the outside of the fried fish with the sauce. At first I almost went with a red curry tartar sauce, but at the last minute I switched to simple warm coconut based red curry. The final touch was a bright and fresh papaya slaw, inspired by the traditional papaya salad.
Let’s make the papaya slaw!
If you are looking for a traditional green papaya salad, check out the great recipe at Hot Thai Kitchen! This in a simple paired down version to put on the sandwiches. I wanted to make sure the core feelings I get from eating the salad to remain intact though-
- Bright and fresh, almost energizing.
- Aggressively spicy, but in a euphoric and addicting way
Step one is to smash some of the aromatics in a mortar and pestle. This is red chili peppers, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. You could also blend them up if that is better for you, but smashing them together adds an intense level of flavor that will be perfect for our red curry fried fish sandwich.
Peel the papaya and shred it with a julienne peeler, then add it to a bowl with lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, and the chili paste and toss it to combine. I used the mortar to smash it up together in the bowl a little bit. At the end I added some Thai basil.
Fry the fish
The recipe and method for the fish is mostly based on the Serious Eats one here. I also added some vodka along with the beer because it helps the batter get super crispy! You dip the fish in the flour first, then the batter, then back to the flour, which is a bit of a messy process but it works so well for the perfect fried fish sandwich with red curry.
After the dredge, drop it into the fryer.
I mean, just look at how crispy this thing is! Amazing. The crispy coating also really stays crunchy when you smother it in the sauce which is really important for a recipe like this.
Make the Red Curry For the Fried Fish Sandwiches
I went with a store bought red curry for this recipe to keep things simple. About 2 tablespoons of the paste in the hot oil, then add coconut cream. I went with a lot of paste, and coconut cream instead of coconut milk, because I wanted this sauce to be intense. When you have red curry at a restaurant, it is usually a little more subtle, because there is a lot of sauce. For the red curry fried fish sandwich, we have a lot less sauce to get the flavors across.
Finally building the Red Curry Fried Fish Sandwiches
Ok, you have made everything – now it’s time to gather it all together and build the best sandwich you have had in a long time. The papaya, the curry, the buns, and of course the star of the show – the fish!
Start with the bottom bun and add a little sauce to it. Then the fish, then really go for it with the sauce. Smother it! Finally, then juicy papaya slaw, and then the top bun! There you have it! Red curry fried fish sandwiches with papaya slaw!
You can see the glistening red curry in this shot and I think that’s really neat. The combination of flavors and textures in this sandwich make it my perfect sandwich! Spicy, fresh, bright, savory, and a little tart. The crunchy slaw, then crispy fish, the creamy sauce, and of course that tender slightly sweet bun! The red curry fried fish sandwich is what sandwich dreams are made of!
Variations on the Red Curry Fried Fish Sandwich
This sandwich would also be awesome with panang curry, or green curry! I almost put cucumbers on top, and you could do then with the slaw, or instead of it for a much easier to make sandwich. I think the cucumbers would also be great with lots of Thai sweet chili sauce.
You could also do the same sandwich with fried chicken, or grilled fish. and you could go bunless as well and just serve it all on a plate, maybe even with some rice!
If you love putting Thai food on a sandwich, check out this sub I made inspired by a sloppy joe combined with Gai Pad Krapow
Red Curry Fried Fish Sandwich with Green Papaya Slaw
- 1 green papaya
- 2 limes (juice)
- 3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 inch ginger peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon diced shallot
- 3 thai red chilis sliced
- 1 stalk lemongrass fibrous layers removed, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 20 leaves Thai basil sliced
- pinch salt
Red Curry Sauce
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 6 oz can of coconut cream
- oil for frying (I use peanut)
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup beer
- 1 shot vodka
- 4 3oz portions cod fillet
- 4 toasted brioche buns
- Peel the papaya, then use a julienne peeler to make thin shreds of papaya. Add to a bowl with the lime juice and toss to combine.
- Note about the lemongrass- if you havn't used fresh lemongrass before, just remove most of the outer fiberous layers until you are left with the thin bendable center layers. Slice it thin with a knife. You know you have only the inner layers when it is easy to slice, if it is hard to slice, peel more.
- Add the garlic, ginger, shallot, chilis and lemongrass to the mortar and pestle. Season with a pinch of salt. Smash the ingredients to a paste.
- Add the paste to the bowl with the papaya. Add in the sugar and fish sauce as well. Gently smash everything together in the bowl using the mortar, then stir to combine. Stir in the basil. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
- Add some oil to a frying pan and add in the curry paste. Stir and cook for about 3-5 minutes as the past fully combines with the oil. Stir in the coconut cream and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and allow to gently simmer while you prepare the fish, adding a little water if it gets too thick.
- Bring the frying oil to 375.
- Put one half cup of the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper. Stir the remaining cup of flour together with the corn starch, salt and pepper, paprika, and baking powder.
- Add in the vodka and beer to the flour mixture and stir to form the batter.
- Season the cod fillets with more salt and pepper, then start with one and dredge it lightly in the flour. Dip it in the batter and allow the excess to slide off, then back into the flour. Drop it right into the oil and fry about 8 minutes until crispy, golden, and cooked through. Remove to a wire rack and season with a pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining fish, trying not to make too much of a mess!
Build the sandwich
- Add some curry sauce to the bottom bun, then top with the fish, then more curry sauce. Top with some slaw and the top bun and serve.