Tuesday, December 17, 2013

grilled fish with sambal belacan in banana leaves

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!!

Grilled Fish with Sambal Belacan in Banana Leaves (Serves 4)
Loosely adapted from rasamalaysia

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

1. Prepare the sambal by grinding chilies, shallots, toasted belacan and lemongrass.
2. 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.
3. Place fish on banana leaves. Spread sambal paste on the fish. Squeeze lime (or calamansi) juice on fish.
4. Wrap leaves and secure with skewers.
5. Place banana leaf parcel on a skillet. Cook, covered, or about 12 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
6. Serve immediately, with rice if you prefer.

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