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Recipe: Thai compound butter & a baked fish in garlic-chili sauce


Being in quarantine has got me cooking up a storm up in the kitchen! One of my most ambitious projects was this preparation – a homemade compound butter with Thai flavors that will then be used to flavor and bake an entire fish.

I haven’t made compound butter at home before, and I sure was missing out all this while. I was surprised to learn how something that holds so much flavor can easily be prepared at home with the simplest ingredients.

Now, compound butters are something I like to keep on hand to effortlessly boost the flavor of meats, chicken, and fish, or slither into pasta with a little cheese. These recipes also freeze very well, so it’s simple to pull them out on a whim and use to suit the tastes of everyone at the table.

When it comes to what brand of butter to use, I recommend you use a European dairy butter for its high percentage of butterfat, rich taste, and soft textures. With less water, European butters are often the preferred butter for baking — especially when the flavor of butter is just as important as its function.

Some European dairy butter brands that are easily available in UAE supermarkets are Président, Elle & Vire, Isigny Sainte Mère, Paysan Breton, and Echiré.

For my compound butter recipe, I used Président unsalted butter. With unsalted butter, you can easily control the level of salt in your compound butter. Here are some more tips for making flavored butters at home:

  • Use softened butter as its easier to fold your flavoring ingredients
  • Use cling film to roll your butter logs. Spoon the butter mixture and twist the ends of the plastic wrap to secure
  • Chill each log for at least 1 hour or freeze for 20-30 minutes for the logs to take shape
  • Create your own seasoning blends by using complementary ingredients from your favorite ethnic profiles – for my recipe, I chose Thai flavors

Thai Basil & Lime Butter

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (Use European dairy butter. I used Président)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger (grated)
  • 4 whole green chilies (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp lime zest (finely grated)
  • salt (as per taste. I used 1/2 tsp)
  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth

  2. Spoon the butter mixture on cling film and roll into a log

  3. Refrigerate for one hour, or freeze for 30 minutes until firm

Compound butter is multipurpose. On lazy days, I smear my Thai Basil & Lime butter on a piece of bread and top it with rotisserie chicken. It tastes really good!

On the days that I have time on hand, I use my compound butter creation for more complex dishes. One such preparation is a Thai Baked Fish in Garlic-Chili Sauce. Using compound butter in this recipe not only helps in the baking process but also elevates the flavor of the fish to a whole new level.

Thai Baked Fish in Garlic-Chili Sauce

While fresh whole fish is usually grilled outdoors in Thailand, this particular recipe calls for baking in foil

  • 1 whole fish (I used fresh seabream but you can use any white-fleshed fish)
  • salt (to rub on fish)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 0.5 tsp black pepper
  • 4 whole red chilies (chopped)
  • 6 discs thai basil & lime compound butter
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • handful coriander leaves (for garnish)
  1. Cut thick gashes and rub salt on the fish. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, black pepper, and red chilies. Mix well.

  3. Rub the sauce on the fish. Coat it well.

  4. Place the Thai basil & lime compound butter on the fish. 2-3 discs each side, depending on the size of your fish.

  5. Place fish on a large piece of aluminum foil. Make sure the foil is big enough to cover and wrap the fish. 

  6. Put the wrapped fish on a baking sheet or tray and place in the oven. Bake at 185 C for 20 minutes or longer, depending on the size and thickness of your fish.

  7. Remove fish from the oven and check some of the deeper cuts to see if the inner flesh is cooked. If fish still needs more time, return to your oven for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked.

  8. Once it's ready, remove the fish from the oven and sprinkle fresh coriander leaves and lemon juice on both sides of the fish.

Have you made compound butters at home? If yes, tell me your favorite recipes