A delicious Lao Mok Pa recipe. This steamed fish is wrapped in banana leaves and tied with bamboo. Surprise your dinner guests with this beautifully presented meal.
The Asian cultures are so incredibly resourceful, even 7 months into traveling in Asia I am still stunned by the various uses they find for some things.
Banana leaves are used to wrap veggies, fish, noodles, you name it. Thin strips of bamboo are then used to secure the banana leaf satchels. No plastic needed. I love this. Bamboo can also be used to make cups. Coconut can be used to make bowls. It’s fascinating.
And so during my Lao cooking class when I found out Mok Pa recipe – Lao style fish steamed in banana leaves was on the menu, I was excited. I myself would learn how to wrap the fish and secure it with the bamboo strings.
If only it was easier to get your hands on banana leaves and bamboo back in the US. Thankfully you can always use parchment paper or aluminum foil (as I’ve done before with steamed branzini and New Orleans style shrimp).
The first step in this Mok pa recipe is to pound the various herbs in the mortar. Take one whiff and you’ll instantly understand why the food processor could never replace the mortar. The aroma is released and you can’t help but smile.
From there you throw the pieces of fish into the mortar and lightly mix. Use either your hands or the spoon; your hands will make things messier, but supposedly will add more flavor.
Now onto the banana leaf folding. First we slightly heated up the banana leaves over the charcoal fire, to soften them up and make them flexible. Once they start to heat up the color changes from light to dark green and the leaves will not crack if folded.
The key is to use two banana leaves layering one on top of the other and making sure the tough stems are opposite each other (only 1 stem on each side). The fish is then added and the folding begins. The sides without the tough stems are pulled towards each other, then one open end is flattened, folding the flaps over the sides. The sauce and herbs are spooned into the remaining open end and then this is closed the same way.
In the class we then tied a thin thread of bamboo around the top of the banana leaf packet and then tied the bottom with another piece of bamboo. This can be done with toothpicks instead.
From there we steamed everyone’s fish together. A perfect solution for those with portion control problems. This Mok pa recipe is a great way for a creatively presented single serving meal for dinner guests. Don’t tell them what’s inside either. Let is be a surprise!
**Do not use frozen banana leaves – the result will not be the same.
**If banana leaves are not available you can stuff the fish and herbs into a large green pepper with the cap sliced off. Top it off with the cap and steam. This way everything can be eaten too.
A delicious Lao fish recipe. This steamed fish is wrapped in banana leaves and tied with bamboo. Surprise your dinner guests with this beautifully presented meal.
15 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
30 minTotal Time
- sticky rice powder
- 2-3 shallots, peeled
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled
- 1 red chili
- 5 thin slices of lemongrass
- pinch of salt
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- 1 bunch dill, chopped
- 2 stems basil, chopped
- 1 green onion, cut into large segments
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 5 ounces firm white fish fillet
- 2 banana leaf rectangles (8 inches by 10 inches)
- In a mortar pound sticky rice powder, shallots, garlic, chili, lemongrass and salt. Pound until a paste forms.
- Add kaffir lime leaf, dill, basil and green onions. Continue to pound until kaffir lime leaf is broken up)
- Add water and fish sauce, and mix until combined.
- Add in fish and mix.
- Heat banana leaves over heat until leaves turn darker (few seconds).
- Place leaves in front of you, dark side down, with stems opposite each other.
- Add fish to the center of the banana leaf without any liquid and fold up one of the sides. Add the liquid sauce through the open end and fold that one up too. Seal the banana leaves with toothpicks or bamboo.
- Steam gently for 15 minutes over high heat.
- Serve with sticky rice (or regular rice) and steamed vegetables.
Recipe from Tamarind Cooking School