Whole fish umu at home

Whole fish umu at home

My Feast
Chris Chen

An umu (also known as a lovo or Hangi) is a popular traditional way of cooking throughout the Pacific Islands. This recipe will help you achieve the signature taste of umu-cooked fish in your home kitchen without the need to dig up the backyard! But do not attempt this in a gas oven.


Quantity Ingredient
1 large hessian sack, (see note)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 x 4kg fish, (such as groper, snapper or coral trout)
1/4 bunch dill, chopped
1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
6 large banana leaves, (you will need enough to wrap the fish in 2 layers)
200ml smoky barbecue sauce
1 fresh coconut, flesh grated, to serve
Coconut cream sauce, to serve
lime halves, to serve


  1. Soak the hessian sack in water for 2 hours. You need to make sure it is well soaked as you don’t want it to catch fire in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven (must not be gas) to 220°C.
  3. Rub salt and pepper all over the fish. Massage in the herbs, then splash the barbecue sauce all over the fish.
  4. Lay the fish in a double layer of banana leaves and wrap it, making sure it is completely sealed. Place the parcel, fold side down, in a large roasting tray. Cover with the hessian sack and roast for about 1 1/2 hours. If the hessian sack is drying out, pour over some water to ensure it is moist at all times. To check whether the fish is cooked, press it lightly just below the head and if it gives, the fish is done.
  5. Once cooked, remove the fish from the oven, carefully lift it out of the tray, place on a large serving platter and unwrap the banana leaves.
  6. Cover the fish with the grated coconut and serve with the coconut cream sauce and lime halves.


  • Ask your local coffee roaster for a hessian sack.
My Sri Lanka
Island Feast
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