Neil Perry’s crisp-skin snapper with lettuce, peas and XO butter sauce


Neil Perry’s crisp-skin snapper with lettuce, peas and XO butter sauce

Crisp-skinned snapper packs a punch – and a crunch – in this healthy Asian-inspired fish recipe from leading restaurateur Neil Perry.

Snapper is loved for its mild, sweet flesh and moist texture; the skin is pleasing as well, especially when it’s nice and crisp. 

Serves: 5


  • 4 x 180 g fillets snapper (or other broad-flaked white fish, salmon or ocean trout), centre cut, skin on
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon, for squeezing

For the XO butter sauce

  • 2 heads baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
  • ½ cup (125 ml) XO sauce
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup (130 g) frozen baby peas, blanched and refreshed in iced water
  • 140 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced


  1. Place a snapper fillet on a chopping board, skin side up. Scrape the back of a knife across the skin and when little drops of water appear, wipe them off with paper towel. Do this about 5 times to each fillet to extract as much moisture as possible from the skin.
  2. Take a frying pan that will hold all the fish quite snugly. Have ready a saucepan of a similar diameter, half-filled with water, and a sheet of greaseproof paper. Rub the skin side of the fish fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle a little olive oil into the frying pan and place over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the fish, skin side down, jiggling it slightly as you place it in the pan – this helps it not to stick.
  3. Place the sheet of greaseproof paper over the fish and sit the pan of water on top; the weight will help get the fish skin even crisper. Cook for 4 minutes, then remove the pan of water and the paper. Carefully slide a spatula under the fish, turn it over and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the flesh is just set. Remove from the heat and leave to rest while you make the sauce.
  4. For the XO butter sauce, put a little olive oil into a saucepan over high heat. When it is hot, add the lettuce and fry for 1 minute, then stir in the XO sauce, sugar, fish sauce and peas. Add the butter, then remove from the heat and swirl the pan. The butter should melt to make a rich, delicious sauce.
  5. Spoon the sauce onto a platter, then lay the fish fillets on top. Sprinkle with salt and a good grind of pepper, then squeeze a little lemon juice over the fish and serve.

Serving tip: For the crispiest result, the fish skin should be as dry as you can get it. You can buy a special fish weight to press the skin of the fish against the pan as it cooks, but a pan of water works just as well.

Images and text from Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry, photography by Petrina Tinslay. Murdoch Books RRP $59.99.

Published June 2022

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