There are a few grocery stores around Sydney that I absolutely love. Shops that have huge sections of fruit and vegetables, endless rows of Asian sauces and noodles, beautiful cold meats, amazing arrays of cheeses and dozens of types of pasta, in shapes I never knew existed.
I was wandering through one of these shops, and was excited to stumble across a package of banana leaves. I had never seen banana leaves for sale, yet I have always wanted to try cooking with them. There was no question about it – dinner was going to be bbq fish wrapped in banana leaves.
I haven’t been cooking seafood for very long, and this was only my second whole fish. I was a bit uncertain about what I was going to do with the snapper, and, not having any recipes on hand while I was shopping, I relied on a bit of creativity and some imagination.
I collected everything that I thought would taste good. I ended up with chillis, limes, herbs, garlic and ginger – and of course, a beautiful baby snapper.
Last time I cooked a whole fish – and my first ever attempt – hubby and I accidentally bought a whole, uncleaned fish, still covered in scales. We spent hours cleaning and scaling the thing, relying on YouTube clips for pointers.
This time, it was a lot easier to ask the fishmonger to clean the snapper for us!
I placed the fish on the banana leaves, and carved some slits into the skin. I started by rubbing ginger, garlic and red curry paste into the skin, and then filled the body cavity with sliced lemon, coriander and more garlic. I sprinkled a little sesame seed oil onto the skin and a few teaspoons of soy sauce.
After rubbing the banana leaves with oil, I wrapped the fish up and secured it with wooden skewers. With the bbq lid down, it only took about 15 minutes on the grill for the fish to be tender and moist.
Unwrapping the somewhat shriveled banana leaves, I spinkled the fish with fresh chilli and spring onions, and served the spicy, tangy fillets with steamed vegetables and rice.
The fish was a little too bony for my taste, but I think that was simply a product of my lack of skill in serving… I definitely need to work on how to remove the fillets from whole cooked fish.
Aside from the bones, the snapper tasted great, and the flavours of the herbs, garlic and ginger permeated the delicate flesh. I made a sweet chilli dipping sauce to go with the fish, but in the end, I felt that the meal was far better without it.
We enjoyed the snapper with a beautiful sauvignon blanc, sitting outside and enjoying a late summer evening.