Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grilled Whole Fish in Banana Leaf Recipe (Ikan Panggang)

by Andrea Nguyen

Banana leaf is not merely nature’s placemat. Asian cooks use it like plastic wrap, foil, and parchment paper. The beauty of using banana leaf is that it imparts a wonderful tea-leaf like scent to food during the cooking process. It’s kinda like the Southeast Asian version of French cooking en papillote (in paper)!

In the Vietnamese kitchen, banana leaf perfumes silky sausages and headcheese and many dumplings. But we seldom wrap large whole fish in banana leaf and grill it like our Southeast Asian brothers and sisters tend to do. Fresh lotus leaves, which are huge and easy to wrap with, is more typically used. Or, you use mud to encase the whole fish, usually freshwater snakehead fish (ca loc in Vietnamese). Or, you just grill the fish in a wire frame basket.

But who has fresh lotus leaves and mud at their disposal? Or the right size wire basket? Not me.

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