A beautiful balanced dish of perfectly pan fried barramundi fillets, served with a rich seaweed butter sauce. This is easy but elegant cooking, especially for those who like to plate up restaurant style food at home.
Pairing fish with seaweed is something I learnt, when I worked in South of France almost 15 years ago! Back then, Chefs had started to experiment cooking with Japanese ingredients and certainly since then, the recipes have developed even more.
Seaweed adds a wonderful intense flavour to any dish and works perfectly well with seafood, like this pan fried barramundi. We had recently posted a fail-proof recipe for a white wine butter sauce, so we decided to use it as a base to make a seaweed butter sauce which pairs beautifully with this fish recipe.
Having now lived in Australia for a while, I have learnt to appreciate the wide variety of fresh fish here. The one which I probably use the most, is barramundi.
WHAT IS BARRAMUNDI FISH
Barramundi also called Asian Sea bass, is a fish native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. The name translates from Aboriginal into "Large-Scale Fish" for obvious reasons. They are born in the ocean and then move to fresh waters inland.
However, they also are able to live purely in saltwater. Mostly ocean farmed, they have a clean, nutty flavour with a meaty texture.
Barramundi fillet - buy barramundi fish that is fresh and has a thick fillet. Make sure the skin has been scaled already. Barramundi has thick bones and unless you have a pin-boner at home, ask your fishmonger to remove them for you.
Thyme - to season the fish while cooking. Thyme can be replaced with other herbs like rosemary, tarragon or sage but if you serve the fish with seaweed butter, thyme works best.
Butter - to add to the fish for flavour. Butter is optional and is not a main ingredient.
Olive Oil - use a light, good quality olive oil.
Lemon - to add acidity to the fish.
Seaweed - is for the butter sauce. I used nori sheets but you can use wakame or dulse too.
Butter Sauce - follow this beurre blanc recipe to make the butter sauce. The sauce can be made ahead and re-heated to perfect consistency, if required.
HOW TO COOK BARRAMUNDI FILLETS
Barramundi is best eaten pan fried. Due to it's meaty texture, the flesh holds well and makes it perfect to simply cook in a pan. The skin of barramundi is rather thick and not pleasant to eat, when the fish has been poached or steamed.
For best results use a good quality non stick pan or a cast iron pan that you know won’t stick.
preparing the fish
Feel the fish fillet for any bones and remove them if you find any. Trim the sides with a sharp knife and cut the fish in 170g (6oz) fillets. Score the skin by gently cutting lightly into the skin, making 5-6 lines per fillet. This will help to crisp up the skin.
seasoning the fillets
Using a paper towel, pat dry the fish fillets. Season the fish from all side with salt, preferably sea salt. This is something you can do ahead and it will also help crisp up the skin, especially if you leave it sitting for 5-10 minutes.
cold pan or hot pan
There is no clear answer to this question. Many Chefs have a different opinion on this but what I have learnt and always taught, is to sear the fish in a medium hot pan. Important is to place the fish with the skin side down in the pan.
Be careful not to burn yourself following the next step, as oil might splatter onto your hands. Use your fingers or a spatula to gently press down the fish. This helps to cook the skin evenly and avoids the fish from curling.
Leave the fish to cook on the skin side for at least 5-8 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally to ensure the skin doesn’t stick.
when to turn the fish
Depending on the fish, the fillet can be cooked entirely on the skin side. But when using barramundi, we want to make sure the fillet is cooked all the way, as it can’t be eaten when undercooked.
Watch the side of the fillet turning from raw to slightly white and the flesh starting to feel warm, this is a sign the fish is almost cooked. Use the spatula and turn the fish around.
how to finish cooking the fish
Right before you turn the fish, is the moment you add the thyme and butter. Here I like to use a technique called butter basting which means spooning the butter onto the skin, over and over again after it has been turned around. Thus transferring the thyme and butter flavour to the fish.
The butter will foam and bubble away and eventually turn into brown butter adding that beautiful nutty flavour.
Continue for 1-2 minutes and then squeeze a bit of lemon on the top. Remove the fish from the pan and its ready to serve!
THE SEAWEED SAUCE
To make the seaweed butter, prepare the basic butter sauce first.
Cut the seaweed in smaller pieces with scissors. Once the butter sauce is ready, add the seaweed sheets and use a stick blender to incorporate them into the sauce.
Nori sheets are strong in flavour, so taste the sauce first before adding any more. You want a nice balanced sauce, tasting of the ocean with a butter sauce consistency.
WHAT TO SERVE IT WITH
For an elegant light meal, pair your pan fried barramundi seaweed dish with any of the following sides:
- oven roasted baby carrots
- butter glazed potato fondants
- oven baked vegetable gratin
- fennel and blood orange salad
or just simply serve with roasted broccolini, garlic and preserved lemon, like we did!
If the skin of the fish sticks to your pan while cooking, you need to use a spatula and carefully loosen the skin from the pan and then turn the fish around.
But It might be too late already, so if the skin can’t be saved, remove the fish from the pan without the skin. Clean the pan and finish cooking the fish in it.
The best way to determine if the fish is cooked, is to use a skewer or toothpick. Stick either of the two into the thickest part of the fish. If you feel resistance, you have to cook the fish longer but if the skewer or toothpick goes through easily, then the fish is cooked.
No, you can’t nor should you cook the fish ahead. What you can do instead, is sear the fish in the pan from the outside and place it on an oven tray with the skin side up. When you are almost ready to serve it, cook the fish in the oven.
Yes you can. For a crispy fish skin, I would still sear the fish in the pan (skin side down) for 3-4 minutes and then cook the fish with the skin side up in the oven at 180°C (350°F) for 8-10 minutes (depending on thickness).
MORE FISH RECIPES
We love seafood and that's why you will find a good selection of fish and other seafood recipes on our blog. Here are some of our popular recipes for you to try next:
- whole baked barramundi with sauce vierge
- oven baked trout fillet with celeriac remoulade
- pan seared red snapper with coconut curry sauce
- whole salt baked fish with salsa verde
Whether you make this Pan Fried Barramundi Fillet recipe as a weeknight meal or decide, that it's actually nice enough for a special occasion, we would love to know what you thought of it!
Until then Happy cooking!
Pan Fried Barramundi Fillet with Seaweed Sauce
- good quality non stick frying pan or cast iron pan
- fish spatula
- stick blender
- small pot
for the barramundi
- 700 gram barramundi fillet
- 4 thyme sprigs
- ½ lemon
- 60 gram unsalted butter
for the seaweed butter
- 250 millilitre white wine butter sauce
- 1 nori seaweed sheet
- sea salt
for the barramundi
- Feel the fish fillet for any bones and remove them if you find any. Trim the sides of the fillet with a sharp knife and cut the fish in 170g (6oz) fillets. Score the skin by gently cutting lightly into the skin making 5-6 lines per fillet.
- Using a paper towel pat dry the fish fillets. Season the fish from all side with sea salt. Leave the fish for 5-10 minutes at room temperature before cooking.
- Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the fish with the skin side down in the pan. Be careful not to burn yourself as oil might splatter over your hands. Use your fingers or a spatula to gently press down the fish. This helps to cook the skin evenly and avoids the fish from curling.
- Leave the fish to cook on the skin side for at least 5-8 minutes shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the skin doesn’t stick.
- Watch the side of the fillet turning from raw to slightly white and the flesh starting to feel warm, this is a sign the fish is almost cooked. Add the thyme and butter to the pan.
- Using a spatula turn the fish around. With a spoon, baste the fish by spooning the melted butter over the skin, over and over again, transferring the thyme and butter flavour to the fish. Continue for 1-2 minutes, remove the fish from the pan and serve.
for the seaweed sauce
- To make the seaweed butter prepare the basic butter sauce first.
- Cut the seaweed in smaller pieces with scissors. Once the butter sauce is ready, add the seaweed sheets and use a stick blender to incorporate them into the sauce while still hot.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
- Serve the sauce on the side or pour some onto the plate with the fish fillet and veggies
But It might be too late already, so if the skin can’t be saved, remove the fish from the pan without the skin, clean the pan and finish cooking the fish. how do I know if the fish is cooked? The best way to determine if the fish is cooked is to use a skewer to toothpick. Stick either into the thickest part of the fish. If you feel resistance you have to cook the fish longer but if the skewer goes through easily, then the fish is cooked.
Great way to cook barramundi
How can you butter basting the skin side before turning?
Shilpi & Etienne
Thank you for pointing this out John. We don't advise butter basting before turning the fish. While the fish is skin side down, I add the butter and thyme, flip the fish and then spoon over the butter over the skin. I will update the post to explain this more clearly. Appreciate you reaching out and hope you give this recipe a go!