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!!

What:
- 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.

How:
- 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.

23 comments:

Elra said...

Cecil,
NGILER..... dear!
I am amazed that you have time to cook, considering how busy you are. I am impress and keep cooking!

Mekhismom said...

That "gift" looks so yummy! I would love to open a package like that. It looks really easy except I wouldn't know where to find the banana leaves here.

CECIL said...

Elra: Haha..thank you!! Sometimes after all day working, even eating out sounds tiring. And it's soothing to be in kitchen.

Mekhismom: Thank you for stopping by! Foil and parchment paper can do the job, it just won't have that 'rustic banana leaves' flavor on it. Not sure how 'small' the city you live at, but when I lived in KY, I too had hard time finding them. But if your city has Asian stores (Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian) - most likely they'd have some.

Esi said...

This fish looks good. I know what you mean about the changing seasons and the light going away. I just got a new light that will hopefully make that problem a little easier to deal with.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

What a great "gift"! That must smell divine, not to talk about the taste!

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Oh that fish looks wonderful. I made a similar marinade once but never thought of wrapping it up in banana leaves. Will have to keep it in mind for next time.

tigerfish said...

This is something I definitely miss...

Love the aroma of banana leaves when the "food" is being grilled/baked in there. Reminds me of otak-otak!

Alexa said...

Cecil,
I know how hard it is to juggle everything... But look at this beautiful dish! My mouth is watering at the site of this gorgeous picture. Great recipe!

Kristen said...

This looks better than any meal you could get at a restaurant! What a lovely treat :)

hot garlic said...

I have ALWAYS wanted to make this! I've seen it and even eaten it on vacay and thought, I have to make this!

Oh wow, it looks just delicious and BEAUTIFUL of course!

Girl Japan said...

Anything baked in banana leaves comes out moist, juicy.. I have NEVER tempted to do it myself though and am very intimidated but you make it seem all worth while.. especially being able to eat such a delish delight.

Antonio Tahhan said...

the only food I've had wrapped in banana leaves is called hallacas and that's a delicious traditional Venezuelan food made during Christmas (my family and I love this dish!). I don't know why I never thought of putting anything else in the banana leaves... Thanks for the inspiration!

Elra said...

Cecil, I have something waiting for you at http://elrascooking.blogspot.com/2008/09/e-award.html
Please do visit if you have the time.

noobcook said...

Mmm... wrapping the fish in banana leaves... I can just smell the aroma hehe ...

Prudy said...

How beautiful! Good luck with all of your activities and reponsibilities. You're creating wonderful food in the middle of it all, so hats off to you.

Maria said...

Fish in banana leaves. YUM! What an interesting way to cook fish! Brilliant!

CECIL said...

Esi: I am beyond nervous about shorter days!! I, seriously, don't know how to take good pictures. So knowing that 'the' spot I usually use for photo taking will get less light, it scares me!

Clumbsy Cookie: Hee..The smell indeed makes me grin.

WanderingChopsticks: When I have some of these leaves in my fridge, I try to come up with all excuses to use it. :D

Tigerfish: OTAK OTAK!! OMG!! I am drooling!!

Alexa: I know, right? Some days/weeks just crazy. And, I don't even have kids yet!! OMG!

Kristen: Thanks much!!

HotGarlic: The recipe itself is pretty simple, isnt it?! But being 'packaged' is what makes it look 'mmmpphh'

GirlJapan: It is really worthwhile. And really, if you can fold an envelope, you can make this! :)

Antonio: Thank you for visiting my blog! I love your blog very much. Oh, we (Indonesians) put everything in banana leaves. Easy clean up. ;)

Elra: So nice of you!! I am very honored! Now I need to figure out how to post this award thing. I just quickly read it this morning. Will read it again tonight. Terima Kasih!!

Noobcook: Isn't it? Something about that 'greeny' banana leaves smell...mhh..

Prudy: Thank you!! Hats off should go to all mothers (like yourself) who can manage good yummy meals everyday.

Maria: Thank you so much!!

Passionate About Baking said...

YAY for you Cecil...amazing flavours & great packaging! How much yummier can life get? YUM!!

daphne said...

This brings me back memories-I love having this every year with my family..except we have the stingray version.

daphne said...

hmm.. I wonder was my msg lost?

I was saying that this post brings me back memories as my parents and I will have the stingray version. I love the banana leaves as well-it just add another dimension to it!

CECIL said...

PassionateAboutBaking: Thank you! :)

Daphne: Oh, I love stringray too...I'd really rather have whole fish, instead of fillet, but was too lazy to drag my feet to grocery.

mycookinghut said...

I love ikan bakar - grilled fish!! I really miss this. This is great with boiled rice. :)

CECIL said...

Mycookinghut: Thanks!! It is indeed good with a plate of hot rice!