Steamed fish in banana leaves

Steamed fish in banana leaves

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

Steaming fish in banana leaves is always a winner. The fish stays moist, while taking on flavour from the leaf itself. It’s also a clean, simple, quick and healthy way to cook. The rice is used to combine and attach all the  flavours to the fish and, when steamed, contributes a great texture. This is definitely one of my favourite Lao dishes. In Asia, lemongrass is used when it is young, small and tender. If your lemongrass is old and fibrous, one lemongrass stem will be enough for this recipe.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons uncooked glutinous rice
3 lemongrass stems, sliced, white part only
4 small red chillies, sliced
1 red asian shallot, chopped
1 handful dill, chopped
1 handful basil, chopped, with flowers if possible
6 spring onions, sliced
1 teaspoon padek or mam nem
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
2 x 200 g fillets tilapia or snapper
4 banana leaves, cut into 30 cm squares

Sticky rice

Quantity Ingredient
400g glutinous rice, soaked in cold water overnight, (see note)


  1. Soak the rice for 20 minutes in a small bowl of water. Strain the rice, then tip into a large mortar. Pound with a pestle until it becomes a sticky paste.
  2. Add the lemongrass, chilli and shallot and pound again. Now add the dill, basil and spring onion and pound again.
  3. Add a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon water, the padek or‚ mam nem and the kaffir lime leaves. Cut the fish into 2.5 cm pieces and add them to the mortar too. Mix together with a large spoon.
  4. Soften the banana leaves, either over a gas flame, in a hot frying pan, or by steaming or microwaving them for a few‚ minutes.
  5. Lay two banana leaves on the work surface, at diagonals to one another. Place half the fish mixture in the centre, bring the corners together and join them to form a pyramid. Pin the edges together with toothpicks to secure the  filling. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second‚ parcel.
  6. Half-fill a steamer, wok or large saucepan with water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Place the parcels in the steamer, flat side down, and steam for 20 minutes.
  7. Serve hot, with sticky rice.


  • To make the sticky rice, drain and rinse the soaked rice in cold water three times. Pour water into the bottom of your steamer and line the steaming section with muslin. Place the rinsed rice on the cloth, cover with the lid and set on the stovetop over high heat. Steam for 15 …minutes, then †flip the rice over. Cook for another 5–15 …minutes, or until the rice becomes translucent; take a small bite to check it is soft and chewy. (Sticky rice generally takes about 20–30 minutes of steaming all up.)
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