Friday, September 19, 2008
Pepes Ikan/ Grilled-Baked Fish in Banana Leaves
This past week has been one of those weeks where days just fly by..besides work and all other things in life, I have also been playing hide and seek, cat and mice (me being the cat!) with prospective client and a travel agent. Being at different time zone, 13 hours apart just make it tad harder. That said, I haven't put the time to take food photos. My lame excuse is that by the time I am done cooking, it's dark outside and all my 'better' pictures that I have taken - I have been banking it all on natural daylight. Which come to this conclusion; when days go shorter, I'll need to find new spot for the right lighting. Hmm!!
Anyhoo, so after all that craziness in this week, I decided that I should reward myself (and Vik) with food 'present.' This dish is absolutely presented like a 'gift' - with its banana leaves packaging. While it's cooking, the kitchen filled with such familiar earthy banana leaves aroma with hint of spices seeping out from the leaves. When opened...mhh..there would be a moment of silence and a huge grin on our face. It's literally like opening a gift.
Best if made with whole fish and then grilled as the end process, but I just don't buy whole fish that often and, I don't have a grill. So, fish fillet it is. And, pan seared!!
- 500 gr fish fillet
- 1 lime
- 2 candlenuts, crushed
- 5 shallots, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tomato, quartered
- 10 long red chillies (not bird eyes chillies - it'll be wayyy too fiercy hot. However I guess, if thai bird eyes chillies are more accessible, then mix 2 chillies with 1 red bell pepper)
- 2 thai basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 tbsp shrimp paste (pan fry for few minutes, optional)
- pinch of turmeric
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2-3 (12"x12") banana leaves, wipe with damp cloth.
- Rub fish with lime juice, let stand for about 10 minutes.
- Grind all spices (except banana leaves, of course) to paste.
- Arrange banana leaves by putting one piece on top of another, with the ribs going the opposite side of each other. One goes horizontal, the other goes vertical - just for security purpose. :) To prevent domino effect of one ripped leaves lead to another. Smear little bit of vegetable oil on the side that is facing up - where we'll put the fish on.
- Place fish fillet on top of oil-smear. Spread spice paste all over fillet.
- Wrap parcel by folding top and bottom side of leaves overlapping each other, like making an envelope. Secure rignt and left ends with toothpicks.
- Place bundle in pan, medium heat. Pour about 1/4 cup of water to the pan, not over the fish. Cover and let it steam. Or of course, if there is a steamer with its rack and all, that's the preferred method. But I don't have such steamer :D - and my dimsum steamer is not quite big to fit this fish package.
- Cooking time varied depending on thickness of fish. But I do about 10 minutes of steaming and by then, there should be no water left in pan and leaves should show some changes in color.
- Turn heat medium-hot, and now let the outer leaves charred (grilling, see). Once one side is charred, flip carefully to get the same effect on the other side.
I serve this with steamy jasmine rice and Sayur Asam. I have always liked the combination of spicy fiery hot of this grilled fish with something tangy fresh - to offset the heat.