The butterfly peacock bass (Cichla ocellaris) was introduced from South America to Vietnam as a pet fish by local fishkeepers. However, some of the fish escaped to the wilderness in Trị An Lake in southern Vietnam. The peacock bass has been considered as an invasive species because it is a predatory cichlid which feeds only on small fish. However, the butterfly peacock bass also caught the attention of local game fishers. So, the population of Cichla ocellaris is somewhat controlled. In Vietnam, it is nicknamed cá hoàng đế or “emperor fish”.
Culinarily speaking, the butterfly peacock bass (and probably some of its relatives) is a prized game fish. Its meat is described as sweet, soft, fatty and delicious. Grilling the fish with some salt and chili is a rustic way to enjoy.
In a small bowl, mix minced garlic, minced chili, a little salt and fish sauce to your taste. Pour the paste onto the fish, rub it and let it rest for about 40 mins.
Wrap the fish in a lotus leaf, and grill over hot charcoal.