Shhhhh… Please do not let the customs officer in the airport know but we brought in something to the country that I have been wanting to cook with for a VERY VERY long time.
That little culinary product that I have been longing to cook with is fresh tropical banana leaves. I have seen banana leaves growing naturally on some of the islands in Hong Kong like Lamma Island and Chueng Chau Island but there are also a lot of BIG spiders in Hong Kong, so I try to stay on the walking path at all costs. Actually, the boys and I have nicked named Lamma Island “Spider Island”, keep on reading to find out the details…
If you can get over the fact that Lamma has man-eating spiders, it really is a beautiful place.
A banana leaf is the leaf from the banana plant. It is used for various functions, such as for decorative elements, wrappings, plate mat, and employed in cooking method.
Banana leaves are used in many countries such as India, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, etc. Banana leaves are large, flexible, and waterproof and provide a great way to steam, grill, fry, bake and display Asian cuisines.
The Banana leaf is also used to add aroma to the food. Steamed with dishes they impart a subtle sweet flavor. They often serve as a wrapping for grilling food. The leaves contain the juices, protect food from burning and add a subtle flavor.
I was so excited about finally receiving these banana leaves. I always knew I wanted to make a lovely fish dish and of course my mango stick rice inside the leaves as I have seen many times in my travels and now I had the opportunity to try it myself. I was so very happy with the end product as the light aroma and flavor of the banana leaves is very delicate and really kept the fish very flaky and moist. Of course the sticky rice and mango rocked and I should have made way more of that.
I know that Bam’s Kitchen is usually dedicated to my teenage boys and their culinary needs and requirements but sometimes mom’s need a very special treat too. After all, Mother’s Day is this weekend and a very special Happy Mum’s Day to all of you!
Tropical Banana Leaf Coconut Fish
Serves 2 adult- (More for me as my teenage boys would not touch this dish with a ten foot pole)
- 2 fillets of white light fish – scales and bones removed (tilapia, orange roughy, cod, whatever your little heart desires, etc)
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 3 Keffir lime leaves (vein removed and broken to release flavors)
- 2 lemon grass stocks (Banged and chopped into 2 inch segments to release flavors and aroma)
- 4-5 Thai Basil leaves whole
- few dashes of fish sauce
- ground white pepper to taste
- few slices of Galangal or ginger
- 2 garlic finely minced (of course is there any other spice!!!!)
- 1-2 bird chillies (seeds removed and sliced thinly-optional for your desired heat level)
- 1 teaspoon of green or yellow curry paste (optional)
- 5 fresh baby corns cut on a diagonal (substitute: canned baby corns)
- handful of chinese garlic chives cut in 2 inch segments (substitute: green onions or regular chives)
- juice of one key lime or 1/2 regular lime
- 2 large fresh banana leaves (substitution: could also bake fish in a parchment packet but you will not have the nice delicate banana aroma and flavor)- In some countries you can find fresh banana leaves in the freezer section of Asian food stores.
Step 1: Marinate the fish: In a medium flat container or plastic bag combine the following items; fish, coconut milk, keffir lime leaves, lemon grass, basil, fish sauce, white pepper, Galangal, garlic, chillies, curry paste. (I bought a fresh Thai Tom Yum soup packet in the market and it had many of these ingredients all together or you can purchase them separately) Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1/2- 1 hour.
Step 2: Preheat oven or Grill (This is completely up to you. I chose to bake at 180 degree’s Celsius as I did not want to lose any of the lovely marinade in the coals. However, you can also grill and preheat those charcoal or gas grills)
Step 3: Wash and cut banana leaves to desired size.
Step 4: Place one banana leaf on the counter and place the marinated fish in the center of the leaf. Add a few garlic chives, baby corn and a squeeze of a fresh lime. (If you like some of those lovely miniature Thai eggplant that would be a lovely addition as well.)
Step 5: Wrap the fish in the fresh banana leaf: Start on one end and fold banana leaf over fish. Then fold in the ends on either side and then continue to wrap so the end product is flat. 4 folds only. You can do this however you wish, just one idea. However with this method there was no need to secure.
Step 6: Pop the fish into a slightly greased baking dish and bake for about 10-12 minutes or just until fish is light and flakes easily with fork. Alternatively you can pop the banana wrapped fish directly onto the grill and grill until fish is light and flaky. (Cooking time depends on size of your fillets and type of fish)
Step 7: Serve the fish to your guests inside the banana leaves with yummy fragrant Mango sticky rice (recipe to follow)
Tropical Banana Leaf Wrapped Mango Sticky Rice from the Philippines
Serves 2 adults or 1 hungry teenage boy (I should have made more as this is something that the kids enjoy)
Recipe adapted from Shirley Villan
- 1 cup glutenous Rice (It does not contain gluten and is safe for gluten-free diets even though the name might make you think otherwise)
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons coconut cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 large pieces of fresh ginger
- 4 medium-sized banana leaves and 8 pieces of banana leaves strips to tie up the packets
- 50 grams fresh sliced mangoes (Can substitute with Jack fruit or any fruit you like)
- Toasted mung beans (Optional)