Thai-Style Baked Fish in Banana Leaf

There are at least a dozen ways to do the marinade.

Culinary Notes

  1. If you ever find Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for this, don’t do it. It’s a mess.
  2. Before you cut it, roll the lime under your palm to release more juice.
  3. Chiffonade the kaffir leaves super thin.
  4. You “could” use ginger but galangal is a proper root to use for this. It has a floral, piney taste that is unmatched.
  5. I don’t use turmeric, soy sauce, butters or oils. I don’t think any of that is needed for this fresh fish dish.
  6. Grilling or putting the banana leaves over some heat before you wrap it will release some important flavor.

What I have done is come up with a mixture that speaks freshness and shouts flavor while keeping the spice and salt properly in check, well, at least for the non-Thai. I like fish. If I didn’t, I would not eat it. I don’t understand recipes that bury fish in tons of salt or other items. You might as well just spin down some tofu with herbs and call it a day.

Moving on…

This recipe is not to be confused, not that anyone would, but…ya know…with Pla Kapong Neung Manao (ปลากะพงนึ่ง) which is never done with banana leaves. Nor should it be mixed up with Hor Neung Plaa (ห่อนึ่งปลา) which is also super delicious but in a class of its own.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium fillets of Monkfish, Snapper or Tilapia
  • A couple of banana leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seed
  • 3 kaffir (lime leaves) leaves cut into thin strips
  • Half a lime squeezed in
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced galangal
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 sprig fresh coriander, root removed
  • A half of a birds-eye chili (no seeds if you can)
  • A few zest scrapes from the lime peel
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or a 1 tsp of coconut shavings and 1/2 cup water
  • 1 big pink shallot

Put everything except the fish and banana leaves into a small blender or your version of the Pulverizer3000. Whatever. Mine is a small CuisineArt.

Meanwhile, put the banana leaf over some heat or fire to release some of the flavors. You can even do over an open flame on a gas stove. You don’t need to burn the damn thing, just start to give it a sweat. 30 seconds flipping all the time.

Once everything kinda looks like a paste, you’re good. You should have those classic Thai flavors; umami, salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.

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Simply put the fish fillets in a marinating dish and cover with the Thai marinating paste. Let that sit for 10-15 min.

  1. Grab your banana leafs and cut them down to size.
  2. Grab a fish fillet and put it in the center.
  3. Wrap it like a burrito or a present or however you wrap things that won’t leak.

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I tie them off with more banana leaf strips rather than use tooth picks.

Put them in the 350º F oven for 12 minutes. Plate them wrapped up still. It makes everything more interesting. Whoever is eating gets to open them up like presents. “Wha?!, my birthday, you shouldn’t have…”

I serve this with some Jasmine Rice or if I am feeling ambitious some sticky rice. A shot of Soju would be perfect too!

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