Aromatic, richly flavored and super moist, this Vietnamese grilled fish is a fine illustration of why, in many cases, less is more. The seasonings and spices are few but they are just enough to bring out the fresh flavors of the fish.
Wrapping the fish in banana leaf prior to grilling keeps as much of the moisture in while still allowing the fish to acquire a smoky flavor and aroma. The banana leaf also imparts its own flavor and aroma to the fish which give it another layer of richness.
Choose a firm and fleshy fish to make this dish. Ask the fishmonger to clean it for you by removing the scales, gills, and guts. Leave the fish in one piece, however. And under no circumstances cut it into fillets. Most of the flavor of the fish is in the bones and you definitely do not want to lose any of it.
- 1 whole fish, about 4 pounds
- 1/2 cup shredded fresh ginger root
- 6 finely chopped shallots
- 1 bird's eye chili (thinly sliced)
- 2 stalks lemongrass (thinly sliced)
- 4 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 4 teaspoons fresh limeKalamansi or lemon juice
- 6 shallots (thinly sliced)
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (coarsely chopped)
- pepper to taste
- Score the fish by slashing the flesh three or four times on each side, the depth of the slashes midway between the skin and the bone.
- Place the fish in a shallow bowl. Stuff the fish cavity with the shredded ginger, chopped shallots, lemongrass, and chili. Season inside and out with the soy sauce and lime, kalamansi or lemon juice.
- If using banana leaf, see instructions on how to prepare.
- Place banana leaf or aluminum foil on a flat surface. Brush the exposed side with oil.
- Arrange the fish at the center of the banana leaf or foil (pour in the remaining marinade). Drizzle a tablespoonful of oil over the fish.
- Wrap the fish up securely in the banana leaf or foil. The fish can be cooked in a preheated 400F oven, on a stovetop grill or over live coals. Allow the fish to cook until the banana leaves turn brown. A two-kilogram fish will cook in about 20 minutes.
- If using a stovetop grill or live coals, place the parcel on a rack at least six inches from the heat. If too close to the heat, the fish might get overcooked near the skin but undercooked at the center. Flip over after about 12 minutes.
- While the fish cooks on the grill, prepare the garnish. In a wok or saucepan, fry the sliced shallots in about two tablespoons of oil until softened. Covering the saucepan or wok will cause the onions to soften more quickly.
- When the fish is done, unwrap and top with the fried shallots and chopped peanuts.
|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|