Spicy Grilled Fish in Banana Leaf
This is a classic dish in every Southeast Asian grill master's repertoire — fish rubbed and seasoned with spices and alliums, wrapped tight in a piece of banana leaf, then grilled till beautifully charred. Just like the culinary techniques of sous vide-ing and cooking en papillote, wrapping and cooking the fish in banana leaf locks in all the sea-sweetness of the fish, and perfumes it with a heady, herbaceous fragrance to boot.
While our version of the dish requires only 3 ingredients, normally the trickiest part of the process laborious grinding of spices for the spice paste/ marinade containing the right balance of lemongrass, chiles, and alliums. Here, we take the fuss out of the dish: with Homiah’s Singaporean Laksa spice paste, just slather the fish in it, tuck it into a banana leaf blanket, and grill it, and you’re good to go!
- In Southeast Asia, whole fish is often used instead of fillets. Indian mackerel, pomfret, or stingray are common, but the technique itself is adaptable with any fish.
- If banana leaf is tricky to source, you can wrap the fish in a layer of aluminum foil before grilling it, then unwrap the fish from the foil to check if cooked and serve. Cook times may be a few minutes longer. The fish won’t have the fragrance that the banana leaf imparts, but the Laksa spice paste will give you a tasty meal regardless!
- If you are grilling outdoors, you can grill the fish directly on an open flame but be careful to oil the grill sufficiently so the banana leaf does not stick. As the banana leaf splits open, you can slide a piece of aluminium foil under to make the grilling process easier to handle.f at any point the sugars start to smell acrid or you see smoke, don’t panic. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool as you continue to stir. If your nuts need more time to caramelize, return to the burner, but lower the heat to slow the cooking speed.
Banana Leaf Grilled Fish
- 2 grouper fillets (1 lb in total, so approx 8 oz per fillet), or any white fish like mahi-mahi, snapper or swordfish
- 100g or 1 Homiah Singaporean Laksa Spice Kit (1 pack has 2 kits)
- 2 pieces banana leaf (approximately 14 x 8 inches each)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil, or any neutral oil
- Place a fish fillet on 2 overlapping pieces of banana leaves, each cut into large rectangles capable of wrapping around the fillet. Rub half of the Homiah Singaporean Laksa paste all over the fish. Then, wrap the banana leaves tightly around the fish (similar to how you would wrap a burrito), securing it with toothpicks or small skewers to prevent the banana leaf from unfolding. Repeat for the other fillet.
- Place a griddle or cast iron pan over high heat and brush with oil. When the pan just starts to smoke, place the two parceled fish on the pan (or cook one at a time depending on pan size), and turn the heat down to medium. Let the fish cook for 3 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another 5 minutes. The banana leaf may begin to blacken and tear open, which is expected.
- To serve, tease open the banana leaf to reveal the fish inside, and serve with a side of rice.