Barbecued Fish Wrapped in a Banana Leaf (Ikan Panggang) ▶
Barbecuing fish in a banana leaf is like baking it in foil — it keeps the fish succulent. Chef Yeo prefers the banana leaf because it infuses the fish with an herbaceous scent and flavor. This very easy recipe produces one of the tastiest fish dishes you’ll ever eat. If banana leaves are not available, you may use foil.
- Candlenuts - 2, soaked in water for 10 minutes (alt. skinless almonds)
- Lemongrass - 1 stalk, fresh, trimmed and sliced
- Shallots - 6 peeled and sliced
- Blachan (dried shrimp paste) - 1 teaspoon
- Jalapeno Chilies - 2 fresh (alt. 6 fresh serrano chilies)
- Kaffir Lime Leaves (daun limau perut) - 3
- Sugar - 1-1/2 teaspoons
- Salt - 1-1/2 teaspoons
- Whole Pomfrets - 2, 10 ounces each (alt. 2 whole trout, or 1 salmon trout, about 1-1/2 pounds), dressed
- Banana Leaf - 2 pieces, 4 inches longer and twice the width of the fish (alt. heavy-duty aluminum foil) (1 piece if using salmon trout)
- Cooked Rice - 2 cups
- Limes - 2, cut in wedges
- Cucumber - 1, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
To make the rempah: Grind the candlenuts, lemongrass, shallots, blanchan, and chilies in a blender or food processor to make a smooth paste. Add a tablespoon or more of water if needed to facilitate the blending. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Split the lime leaves in half lengthwise; tear off the spines and cut the leaves into fine slivers. Stir the leaves, sugar, and salt into the rempah. Set aside.
Scale the fish, rinse well with cold water, and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cut off and discard the fins. Lay each fish flat on one side with its tail toward you. Cut a 1-1/2-inch deep slit along the backbone, following the curves of the back from heat to tail, exposing the backbone. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side. (If the fish has a thin backbone, like trout, one slit will do.) Remove the backbone.
Season the fish with salt. Fill the cavity of each fish with the rempah, and fold the fish in half over the filling. Dip the pieces of banana leaf in a pan of boiling water for a few seconds to soften; wipe dry. Put the leaf, shiny side down, on a work surface and place a fish on it. Fold the leaf over the fish. Seal the ends with bamboo skewers.
Prepare a charcoal fire. When the coals are hot and covered with light ash, place the banana leaf packets over them on an oiled grill. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until the fish are fully cooked. Remove the packets from the grill.
To serve: Unwrap a packet on each plate to reveal the fish. Serve hot with rice garnished with lime wedges and cucumber cubes.