Thai Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves

This is a delicious, if fiddly dish which is guaranteed the “WOW!” from any dinner guest. It’s a great looking but even better tasting dish – full of fragrance and complex Thai flavours. I absolutely loved it, but will admit the steaming took longer than the recipe suggested. Way longer – I think the best option is to wait till you have the right texture whether it takes 20 or 60 minutes. The results are divine.

For the filling:

5 dried red chillies
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
8-10 coriander stems (chopped)
2 shallots (chopped)
1 teaspoon galangal (chopped)
1 lemon grass stalk
2 lime leaves (chopped)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
1/4 teaspoon salt

300g fish fillets (skin off, 1cm cubes)
400ml coconut milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Other ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves
Fresh banana leaves
small red chilli (finely chopped)
1 lime leaf (finely sliced)

In a pestle and mortar, grind up the chillies into a coarse powder then add the garlic, shallots and galangal and grind into a smooth paste. Add the coriander stalks, lemon grass and lime leaves and grind again to a smooth texture. Stir in the shrimp paste and salt and then place into a large bowl.

Pour in the coconut milk, fish sauce and lightly beaten eggs then tip in the fish. Stir well for about 5 minutes then cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the fiddly bit. Add about 3 litres of boiling water into a clean sink. Take about 5-6 banana leaves and plunge them into the water, pressing them down with a wooden spoon. Leave for at least 30 seconds then take them out, one-by one and using a bowl about 15cm diameter, cut around to make discs. When you’ve made about 12 discs that are whole and have no splits in them take the discs and leave them in the hot water.

Take out 2 discs and place the first with ribs the facing horizontally then place the other on top with the ribs facing vertically. Tuck up an edge of about 5cm and fold inwards to create the corner of a square – skewer with a toothpick. Continue around the circle to create 4 corners, skewering each corner. You should have a neat little bowl (of sorts). Repeat with the remaining leaves to make 6 bowls. Divide the fresh coriander between the bowls.

Spoon the mixture between the bowls then arrange them in a wok with steamer basket or in a large steamer. Cook for 20 -50 minutes (depending how long it takes to set. Check occasionally – the texture should be that of a loose flan. Rest for 1 minute then serve.

Sprinkle each bowl with a little chilli and lime leaf then serve with a little mound of rice and a lime wedge to squeeze over.

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