It is no secret that I love fish. Recently, I have also been pretty mad about my mortar and pestle. There is something very rewarding about pounding chillies and spices to grind them down into a paste.
So I bought a snapper recently and after portioning the fish, I found that I had 2 pieces of tail end bits left. Since I had been meaning to try grilling sambal fish in banana leaves for a while, I figured it was a good time to do so.
I like making my own chilli, but really, you can make this with a store-bought sambal, or alternatively, you can make the sambal using a blender, especially if you do not like bits in your sambal.
I started by cutting the shallots and lemon grass into smaller pieces. The smaller you cut them, the less pounding you’d have to do later.
These were pounded until a paste was formed.
The chillies were cut into smaller pieces – I left the seeds in the chillies, but you can always remove them if you prefer a sambal that is less spicy – and pounded too.
I toasted the belacan and added that to the sambal. And pounded some more.
Until everything was mixed.
I added some oil into a wok, and once the oil had been heated, I fried the sambal paste until it was fragrant. This would not take too long. Then the sambal paste was set aside.
I lay a piece of snapper on some banana leaves and spread the sambal on the fish.
Then I squeezed some calamansi juice on the fish – you can use lime juice as well.
Before I wrapped the leaves and secured them with skewers.
I placed this in a skillet (no oil, no water) and cooked the fish, covered, for about 12 minutes.
This can also be grilled in the airfryer if you have one – at 180C for about 8 minutes.
The smell! The smell of the banana leaves being steamed and the sambal and the fish.. I cannot describe how moist and fragrant and delicious this was.
My only regret? I should have used a larger piece of fish!!! YUM!
You’ll just have to make it one day!!
- 6 fresh red chilies
- 3 tablespoons toasted belacan (shrimp paste)
- 6 shallots
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
- 1 lime (extract juice)
- 2 lemongrass (cut into thin slices)
- 4 tablespoons oil
- Prepare the sambal by grinding chilies, shallots, toasted belacan and lemongrass.
- Heat up a wok and “tumis” (stir-fry) the sambal paste until aromatic or when the oil separates from the sambal paste. Add the seasonings: salt, sugar, and fish sauce and do a quick stir, dish out and set aside.
- Place fish on banana leaves. Spread sambal paste on the fish. Squeeze lime (or calamansi) juice on fish.
- Wrap leaves and secure with skewers.
- Place banana leaf parcel on a skillet. Cook, covered, or about 12 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
- Serve immediately, with rice if you prefer.