I’ve been cooking a fair deal of Thai style dishes over the past while. I love the combination of creamy coconut, chilli heat, lemongrass freshness, fish sauce saltiness and the bite of a nice bit of lime. Add to that the delight (or disgust) of a handful of coriander and whatever meat or fish is going to act as the carrier and one has the perfect Thai delight. Or do you? I have wondered for a long time about cooking in banana leaf. What would it add? It looks the business. But will it make my dish any better? Let’s find out.
As one might expect, the ingredients list is very typical of a Thai style dish.
- 600 gms piece of halibut
- 4 cm of galangal root
- 2 stalks of lemongrass
- 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
- 150 ml of coconut milk
- 3 or 4 kafir lime leaves
- 1 banana shallot
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Juice and zest of a lime or two
- A big handful of coriander (cilantro)
- A big banana leaf.
As we are making a paste of sorts, the preparation is pretty straightforward. Peel and roughly chop the shallot, the lemongrass and the garlic. Peel and finely chop the galangal (it is pretty woody and needs fine slicing). Roughly chop the lime leaves, chilli and most of the coriander. Zest and juice the lime or limes. Put all of the above, the coconut milk and the fish sauce into a blender and hit the loud button. Skin the fish and divide into portion size pieces.
Side note on the sauce: This is a fantastic blend of Thai flavours. Even if you don’t have any banana leaves, make the sauce and steam your fish or use it as a base for a chicken or fish curry. It’s delicious.
Place the fish pieces into the paste mixture and cover well. Give the banana leaf a good washing and cut pieces large enough to wrap each serving of the fish. Get some kitchen string. Gently wrap the fish in the banana leaf and tie up a neat parcel.
Place the parcels into a steamer and steam for fifteen minutes While this is going on, make up some Thai fragrant rice. When you open the parcel, you will be greeted with a lovely sight and some delightful aromas. This is a lovely and novel way to serve a Thai inspired dish.
So, the question. Was it worth the expense (a little expense) and the hassle (a little hassle) of getting and preparing the banana leaf parcels? The answer is yes and no. Yes, it was a novel way to serve the fish. Yes, it looks great and it adds a bit of theatre. No, I wouldn’t be bothered doing it on a weeknight after work. But, that sauce, it is so easy to prepare and it is a complete delight. Get cooking!