Jungle Fish in Banana Leaves

I have been eating a lot of meat & poultry these past weeks so I wanted to incorporate some fish into my menu. There are some fish dish that I normally make such as Chinese Style Steamed Fish or pan fried/grilled with just a simple marinade of salt, sugar and black pepper. However, I want to introduce my taste buds to some new flavors and what did I do? Browsed through my collection of cookbook and came across this Jungle Fish in Banana Leaves ត្រីព្រៃអាំងខ្ចប់ស្លឹកចេក from the book entitled “The Food & Cooking of Cambodia”. The recipe looked simple enough so I put it to the test with some adjustments.

“Steaming freshwater fish in banana leaves over hot charcoal is a traditional method of cooking in the jungle. Banana leaves are large and tough, and serve as basic cooking vessels and wrappers for all sorts of fish and meat.” The outcome? It was pretty good. The banana leaves gave a really nice sweet aroma when grilled. I think the fish itself can be grilled whole without the banana leaves but because it was cut up into bite size pieces it absorb a lot of the marinade. If you don’t have banana leaves you can just wrap it in foil and line it with parchment/wax paper so it doesn’t stick.

6 oz fish fillets, cut into bite size pieces
4 banana leaves, rinse and wiped

1 shallot, grated
1 inch turmeric root, peeled and grated
1 spring onion, sliced
4-5 Thai chillies, chopped (optional)
1 big cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar
a dash of salt & pepper

Note: I used the individually packed skinless and boneless frozen tilapia fillets which I defrost in the fridge. You can also use other fresh water fish fillets such as trout, carp or catfish. Banana leaves can be found in the frozen section (where spring rolls wrappers are located). Alternatively you can use 1 teaspoon turmeric powder.

Combine all ingredients for the marinade and toss chunks of fish. Stir to mix. Cover and chill for about 1-2 hours, or overnight.

Prepare your grill or barbecue. Place one of the banana leaves on a flat surface and place marinated fish in the center spreading it out evenly, then fold the sides to form a parcel. Place the parcel, fold side down, on top of another leave and fold that one in the same manner. Secure it with a toothpick or a piece of bendy wire. Repeat with the remaining leaves.

Place the parcel on the grill and cooked for about 10-15 minutes on each side. The outer leaves will burn. Carefully unravel the parcel. Check that the fish is cooked and serve with hot steamed rice. ENJOY!

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