Thai style Fish Wrapped in Banana leaves

by grainnep

Ready to go                              Just before Wrapping

You can use any firm white-fleshed fish for this recipe and it really is delicious. The banana leaves look great especially if you are having friends over. They are easily found at Asian markets and also freeze which is really handy. You might have to steam or heat them before use to make them pliable. I usually stock up my Thai essentials in the Asia Market, Drury Street. A fantastic location and they get their Thai produce in at least weekly direct from Thailand. A tip I got was that Thursday is the best day to get Kaffir Limes and Leaves, (Jo Malone eat your heart out, this is the real deal) Thai Basil as well as a fantastic selection of other fresh fruit veg and fish.

I was lucky enough recently to be taught by Australian born Matthew Albert who is head chef in London’s Nahm restaurant, which was the first Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in the UK. If you love Thai food the Dublin Cookery School regularly gets Matthew over to teach a Thai day and you should put your name down for their next course as he is incredibly knowledgeable and a really great teacher. It is a privilege to have been taught by someone who is that talented (and with a Michelin star as well!). This recipe is one of my own that I had been making for many years but I have added to it since being at the school with the addition of the Thai basil as well as the kaffir lime leaves which take it to another level. As part of the Thai lesson, we were taken on a tour of the Asia Market so that we can recognise some of the Thai products available there and that was fantastic as sometimes there is no english translation beside the products.

Anyway, here is the recipe and the beauty about this is that once you have the ingredients chopped it takes very little time to prepare.

Serves 4
4 (6 to 8 ounce) pieces firm white fleshed fish such as Monkfish, Hake or Halibut
4 large banana leaves or vine leaves or parchment paper if you don’t have them.
2 fresh red chilies deseeded and chopped (Leave some seeds in if you love the heat)
2 sticks lemon grass, outer leaves removed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 good handfuls fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced and zested
About 200mls (half a tin) of Coconut milk (I use Thai Gold). Don’t shake and when you open and take off 2 tbsp of the very thick cream from the top.
2 tablespoons sesame oil
A few drizzles of fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce, I use light
2 heaped tablespoons finely sliced fresh ginger
4 Handfuls of Thai Basil and 8 Kaffir lime leaves if you can get them. If you can’t get Thai Basil don’t use ordinary Basil as it is nothing like it, just omit or sprinkle over some chopped coriander.

String or a Pandanus leaf to secure

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

Open coconut milk and spoon out 2 tbsp of the top cream
Discard the top 3 Inches and bottom half inch of the lemon grass and then finely chop it.
Pound the Red chillies, Garlic, Ginger and Lemongrass, Coriander in a pestle and mortar until it looks like a thick paste.
Transfer to a small bowl and add coconut milk, sesame oil, soy or tamari, juice and zest of the limes and the fish sauce,
Open your banana leaf and spread a teaspoon of the reserved thick coconut cream onto a square in the middle on which you will place your fish.
Place fish onto the cream, season it and then spoon some of your paste onto it. Cover top with one or 2 kaffir lime leaves and a chiffonade of Thai Basil . (The lime leaf won’t be eaten, just infuses with glorious lime flavour).
Wrap up your fish parcel and tie it with string or a pandanus leaf to secure.
Put the parcels on a tray and bake according to the fish you have. Monkfish will take about 15 minutes, smaller thinner fish will take less.
Remove from the oven, and allow to rest for a minute or 2.
When opened, the fragrant steam wafts up and smells fantastic. Tell those enjoying it to remove the lime leaf before eating!.
I served this with Sweet potato mash though it is also wonderful with your favourite Thai salad. This was a perfect meal with protein from the fish and good fats coming from the fish and the coconut oil and with the sweet potato provided a nice bang of safe carbs.