Mackerel grilled in banana leaf

Mackerel grilled in banana leaf

Michael Fountoulakis

Every restaurant in Hoi An has its own version of fish steamed in banana leaf. Grilling fish in banana leaves keeps it moist while allowing the smoky flavours from the grill to penetrate the sweet flesh of the fish.


Quantity Ingredient
3 garlic cloves
2 lemongrass stems, white part only
2cm knob of ginger
4 tablespoons peanut oil
8 spring onions, sliced
1 large banana leaves
1 x 1-1.4kg mackerel, cleaned
4 tablespoons Fried shallots
Lime, chilli and salt, to serve


  1. Roughly chop the garlic, lemongrass and ginger, then place in a mortar or food processor and pound or process to form a paste.
  2. Put the peanut oil and spring onion in a small saucepan and heat gently. As soon as the onions wilt, remove from the heat.
  3. Cut the banana leaf into seven 20 × 30 cm rectangles. Soften the pieces by dropping them into boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and pat dry. They can now be folded easily without tearing. Place 1 banana leaf, shiny side down, on the bench. Place a second banana leaf on the top half and continue with remaining leaves, moving around the original leaf.
  4. Place the fish on top of the banana leaves. Make a pocket in the fish starting with an incision just below the head and continue lengthways along the side of the fish. Now carefully cut fish away from ribcage. Fold the flesh back to expose the bones. Into this cavity add the garlic paste, fried shallots and spring onions with their oil.
  5. To wrap the fish, fold in the banana leaves at the head and tail of the fish, and then roll up and secure with skewers.
  6. Place on a hot grill and cook for 15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
  7. Remove the fish from the heat and unwrap, taking care to not get steam burns. Serve on the banana leaf with lime, chilli and salt.
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