In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, and water and bring to the boil. Take off the heat, and transfer to a bowl and allow to cool. In a mortar and pestle, pound together the ginger, chile, and garlic. Once the fish sauce mixture is cooled, add the ginger mixture and lime juice. Set aside. In a large wok (large enough to hold the entire fish), heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Carefully, slide the whole fish into the oil and cook on high heat for 5 minutes. The scales of the elephant fish will puff up as it cooks. Remove the fish to a platter, and dress with 4 tablespoons of ginger fish sauce and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve the fish with steamed jasmine rice and remaining ginger sauce.
You can use whole snapper as a substitute for the elephant fish; however the snapper will have to be scaled