Charles Phan, a multiple-time James Beard Foundation award winner, is known as the father of modern Vietnamese cuisine in North America. He uses fresh Ports Seafood fish and shellfish each day at his ever en vogue San Francisco restaurant, The Slanted Door.
Chef Phan was born in Da Lat, Vietnam, in 1962. His family relocated just before the fall of Saigon, spending two years in Guam before settling in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1977. A former architecture student at UC Berkeley, Phan is known for his unique ingredient combinations, his gift for cohesively marrying traditional and modern elements, and the clean aesthetic of his dishes.
RECIPE: Grilled Whole Branzino
BY CHARLES PHAN
1 each , (1 ½ – 2 lb) whole branzino from Ports Seafood (cleaned, with head and tail intact)
Black pepper, ground
1 by 1 inch piece fresh ginger, cut into thin coins
2 large thai basil sprigs
2 large cilantro sprigs
3 thin lemon slices
3 thin lime slices
2 T canola oil or olive oil
2 ½ T freshly squeezed lime juice
2 T fish sauce
2 t sugar
1 t peeled and minced fresh ginger
¼ t minced garlic
¼ t minced thai chile
1. Prepare a hot fire for direct-heat grilling in a charcoal grill.
When the coals are ready, place a cast-iron griddle or large
cast-iron frying pan on the grill grate and preheat until very
2. While the fire is reaching temperature, rinse the fish in cold
water and pat dry with paper towels. Season inside
and out with salt and pepper, then stuff the cavity with
ginger, basil, cilantro, and lemon and lime slices. Drizzle oil
on both sides of the fish and set aside.
3. To prepare the sauce, stir together in a small bowl the lime juice, fish
sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and thai chile until the sugar has
dissolved. Set aside.
4. When the griddle or pan is very hot, add the oil and fish and
let cook (without moving the fish) for about 6 minutes, until the skin is a
deep golden brown and is no longer sticking to the griddle. To
check, gently try to lift the fish from the surface; if it does not release easily,
continue cooking until it does.
5. With a large, wide spatula centered at the middle of the fish, flip
the fish and cook on the second side until golden brown. After
1 minute, begin checking to see if the fish is done. Inset the tip
of a knife into the fish and wiggle it gently; the flesh should barely
cling to the bone. If you feel resistance, continue cooking, repeating the
test until the flesh flakes off the bone easily.
6. Transfer the fish to a platter and serve immediately.
Accompany with the dipping sauce.