Updated: Apr 25, 2021
I love food cooked in banana leaves, whether they are steamed, grilled, baked, or broiled. Something about opening this package on the table, releasing the steam and aromas of the dish and seeing it is very satisfying. In addition, I can taste the subtle flavor the banana leaves impart to the food.
Using banana leaves are found all across Asia, from India through Myanmar to Vietnam and north to China, and also in Hispanic (Mexican, Puerto Rican) and Caribbean cuisines. This method provides a semi-sealed environment for the food to cook, adding natural moisture to the food.
This dish caught my attention because of the simplicity of the dish. It however, was a wonderful subtle curry that brought out the flavors of the fish. I served it with some plain Thai jasmine rice and Stir-fried lotus root with chilies and Sichuan peppers and Stir-fried yam leaves with chilies and Sichuan peppers.
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1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup shallots
3 tablespoons toasted rice flour. Toast 4 tablespoons of rice till golden and grind to a fine powder.
2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
1/2-1 kaffir lime leaf, depending on size
1 cup cilantro, leaves and stems
Salt to taste
1-1 1/2 lb fish fillets with or without skin, red snapper, tilapia, or salmon, cut into 1/4 lb pieces
1 bunch scallions with greens, cut into 2 inch segments
Kaffir lime leaves
Blanch the banana leaves in boiling water till supple. Or put them in some water and microwave till hot and allow to soak. Set aside.
Add all the first set of ingredients to a small blender and puree with a touch of water till a smooth paste is formed.
Lay a banana leaf on a cutting board. Lay a piece of the fish in the center of the leaf. Spoon about 1/6th of the curry paste onto the fish and mix so the fish is coated on both sides with the curry. Layer the top of the fish with kaffir lime leaves. Add about 4 segments of the scallions to the sides of the fish.
Wrap the fish tightly in the banana leaf, pinning the flaps with toothpicks. Try and get the package as tight as you can, but don6-8t stress out, it will all be fine. If the leaf tears, as it tends to do, use a new leaf or use a double layer. Finish the other 5 packages in a similar manner.
Heat up the grill, gas or coal, and grill the packages for about 6-8 minutes per side. Do not overcook, it will dry the fish out.
Broil in the oven for about 6-8 minutes per side. Do not overcook, it will dry the fish out.
Serve with Jasmine rice and the vegetable sides listed above or of your choice.