Pan-Fried Fish with Nuoc Cham has a crunchy breadcrumb coating that is the perfect foil for the slightly acidic, slightly funky Vietnamese dipping sauce known as nuoc cham.
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 2 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoon chopped cilantro
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 6 (6 to 8‑oz) skinless fish fillets (no thicker than 3/4 inch )
- ½ teaspoon osher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup peanut oil (or other high smokeing point oil) plus more as needed
- ¼ cup butter plus more as needed
Make the nuoc cham: Whisk together lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, water, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.
Bread the fillets: Crack the eggs into a large shallow bowl and beat well. Spread the flour across the bottom of a shallow bowl or pie plate. Mix the breadcrumbs with the sesame seeds and spread them across the bottom of a separate shallow bowl or pie plate. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet.
Season the fish fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge one fillet in flour, lift it out, knock off excess flour, and place fillet in egg wash, making sure entire fillet is coated. Remove fillet from egg wash, letting excess drip off; place in crumbs. Gently press crumbs onto fish on both sides, creating a nice even crust. Transfer breaded fillet to rack; repeat process with remaining fillets
Fry the fillets: Place a 12-inch cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil and butter to skillet. Sprinkle a few crumbs into pan to test temperature; they should sizzle when they hit the oil and butter. Gently and carefully lay fish fillets into hot oil and butter, which should come halfway up sides of the fish. As soon as crumbs begin to darken, reduce heat a bit. The key is even cooking, so that when you turn the fillets, they are a perfect golden brown. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes a side; the thicker the fish, the more slowly you should cook it; turn the heat down a bit more if necessary. Turn the fillets; cook 3 to 4 minutes more, until golden brown. Using a slotted spatula, transfer fish to individual plates or a platter. Raise the heat back to medium-high and add more oil and butter if necessary. Bring the oil and butter back to temperature and repeat the cooking process with the remaining fillets.
Serve with lime wedges and nuoc cham.