Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves – Grilled…

There are many ways to cook a fish. I always find that wrapping fish with banana leaf and put on grill is such a wonderful way to cook fish. Banana leaf when touched with something hot releases a very nice scent. It’s not that you are going to chew on the banana leaves but the smell released is just affecting how you eat.

I bought red snapper for the grill
A feast on banana leaves – grilled red snapper

When you dine, you first look at the food, then you smell it and then you take your first bite. All of it are one kind of experience. Banana leaves play some important parts in visual and smell. You know when you have the green leaf and the red sambal paste. Visually it is amazing, then the smell of sambal and the scent from the banana leaves just makes you salivate before

Grilled red snapper in banana leaves

This is how I eat fish – Take a piece of banana leaf (big enough to wrap the whole fish. Splat sambal paste all over the fish. Massage the fish so that the sambal paste coats the fish evenly. Wrap the fish. Grill it on a pan (indoor kitchen style) or put it on a grill (outdoor BBQ style). I am doing it using indoor kitchen style today.

Outer layer coated with sambal and the inner white flesh gives a good contrast of color

This sambal paste, it’s spicy, it’s pungent, it’s aromatic, it’s everything you would want when you unwrap to unfold the mystery within the banana leaf after the grilling it.

The left image shows the freshly blended sambal paste and the right one shows after 20 minutes of low heat cooking.

Before you start eating, the ritual or must-do is to squeeze half a lime on the fish. The squeeze of lime juice will let you have a fresh whiff of lime along with the aromatic sambal. It will, I mean, it will make you salivate even more. Dig in!


By the way, this is my first post to mark the journey of my moody photography learning. I somehow really like the ways light and shadow works in food photos. I feel that this type of photos highlights the food in a very eye catching and unique way.

Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves – Grilled (serves 2)


  • 1 fish, any fish you like, you can use fillet, or fish with bone, about 500g, I am using red snapper
  • 5 red dried chilli, seeds removed and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes
  • 2 red chilli, seeds removed (no need to remove seeds if you want it really spicy)
  • 2 small red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Half inches of turmeric or ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • Half inches of lemongrass (the white part)
  • ½ sprig of curry leaves
  • 1 small kaffir lime leaf, like 50 cents coin
  • 3 tablespoon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dried shrimp, soak until soft
  • ½ tablespoon of lime juice
  • 2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of belacan (dried shrimp paste/powder)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2½ tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Banana leaves to wrap the fish
  • Garnish: coriander leaves and lime slices


  1. Combine dried chilli, red chilli,  onion, garlic, turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, curry leaves, water, dried shrimp, lime juice, vinegar, salt, belacan, sugar in a blender. Blend until smooth to form the sambal paste.
  2. Let’s cook the sambal paste. In a wok or pot with medium heat, put in vegetable oil, once the oil is heat up, put in the sambal paste. Stir and cook for 1 minute then turn to a very low heat to continue cooking. Stir often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok or pot. Cook until the sambal paste turns color. From bright orange to dark red paste. This process will take about 20 minutes. Once that’s done, set aside.
  3. Clean the fish and banana leaves.
  4. Lay out the banana leaf, spread half of the sambal paste on the banana leaf according to the fish size and shape. Spread evenly.
  5. Place the fish on top of the sambal paste. Put the balance half of the sambal paste on the fish. Spread evenly. Cover with another the banana leaf and secure with toothpicks.
  6. Let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  7. Heat up your pan or grill pan with high heat. Grill the fish wrapped in banana leaves for about 7 to 8 minutes on each side.
  8. Unfold and munch!

Note: If you don’t have banana leaves, then just spread the sambal paste on the fish and grill directly on your grill pan. Banana leaves give a really nice fragrant to the fish when grilled. Do try if you can find banana leaves. Some Asian grocery and Indian grocery store might have banana leaves.


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