Three-flavour salmon

Or should it be three-taste?
Whichever: it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s a super crowd-pleaser

Many of you know that I post almost daily to my Instagram account @tanamerahkitchen_haslemere (click the link to see the Instagram feed on this website). Sometimes I’ll put up a recipe that really catches followers’ interest. One such recipe was for three-flavour salmon. So in case you didn’t catch it on Instagram, here it is.

On Instagram I called it three-flavour salmon. My pedantic husband tells me it should be three-taste salmon, because the name refers to the three taste sensations the dish excites: sweetness, sourness, and saltiness. It has many flavours, not just three.

Be that as it may, it’s delicious! And really very quick and simple to make. Thailand claims it as its own, but to be honest the ingredients are common to all South-East Asian cuisines—chillies, garlic, spring onions, tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce.

The tamarind, in the form of a paste, provides the sourness, palm sugar the sweetness, and fish sauce the saltiness.

I doubt there are many things you couldn’t cook in this sauce for a totally irresistible dish. For example you could try it with batter-fried vegetables as party nibbles, or grilled chicken wings in place of buffalo sauce. But this is my favourite way of using it, with fried fish.

I think the normal way we cook fish in Indonesia (and Thailand!) is quite different to the European way. We tend to fry it to the point that in the West it would be considered over cooked. Crispy is the state that we tend to go for, rather than flaky. And that is the case with this salmon. You can use other fish, but the firmness and oiliness and strong flavour of salmon make it perfect for this treatment.


for four people

  • Salmon fillet, skin on | 500 g
  • Plain flour | 30 g
  • Rice flour | 25 g (or extra plain flour)
  • Long red chillies | 3
  • Garlic | 4 to 6 cloves
  • Spring onions | 3
  • Rapeseed oil | 200 ml
  • Tamarind paste* | 20g
  • Palm sugar paste* | 30 g
  • Fish sauce | 20 ml
  • Lime | 1/2
  • Dill | sm bunch
  • Sea salt

*You can find tamarind paste and palm sugar paste in most supermarkets these days


  1. Sprinkle salt over salmon and cut into 3 cm cubes.
  2. Coat with mixed flour.
  3. Chop chillies into 1 to 2 cm sections.
  4. Peel garlic, then using a pestle and mortar, pound into a rough paste with the chillies and 1/2 tsp salt.
  5. Slice spring onions finely (including the green tops).


  1. Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until smoking hot, then add 150 ml of oil (it needs to be between a 1/2 and 1 cm deep).
  2. Bring oil up to very hot—a wooden satay skewer or end of a wooden spoon dipped into the oil should form small bubbles.
  3. Cook salmon in batches so as not to overcrowd pan; fry for about 2 mins, then turn cubes over for another 1 to 2 mins, until golden brown and crispy.
  4. Remove from pan and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Heat a clean pan on medium high and add 50 ml of oil.
  6. Add chilli/garlic mixture and cook down for about 30 sec until fragrant and beginning to brown.
  7. Add tamarind, palm sugar, and fish sauce, then stir for a minute or so to amalgamate—the sauce should turn translucent and shiny.
  8. Lower heat and add drained salmon pieces; swoosh around in pan until salmon is well coated with sauce.
  9. Turn off heat, Squeeze over lime juice. (Lime juice is my secret to tasty food—be generous with it.)
  10. Transfer to a serving bowl, scatter over spring onion, and dill leaves pulled from the bunch.


Serve with freshly cooked jasmine rice; or even better, in a flat bread wrap with pickled carrot and cucumber (see my acar recipe for a deluxe version), salad leaves, Japanese mayo, and for a final kick of heat, sriracha sauce. Mmmm, that’s the way we love it!

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