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Thai Fish in Banana Leaves

A simple Thai curry flavored marinade adds tropical flavor to fresh fish steamed in banana leaves. Serve Thai Fish in Banana Leaves with coconut rice and stir-fried veggies for a meal that evokes images of palm trees swaying in the breeze!

A square white plate with an open banana leaf packet of snapper fish with the Thai coconut sauce and mango salsa accompanied by coconut rice and opo squash.

Food is the great communicator, connecting generations and helping build memories and friendships. It gathers us together and teaches us the importance of sharing not just food, but the best of ourselves.

~~ Rachael Ray, Rachael Ray Everyday

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

The holidays have finally come to a close; my house is quiet for the first time in weeks. Food continues to be a major part of every family celebration, and our week in Charlotte and subsequent 2 weeks together in McAllen and South Padre Island were no exception!

Thai Fish in Banana Leaves was the brainchild of my son Evan, sister Cori, and me. I have had my eyes on the beautiful banana leaves at my local HEB market for months. I knew I wanted to use them to steam fresh gulf snapper. Cooking fish in banana leaves was not a thing in the desert southwest!

A stack of fresh banana leaves ready to prepare the fish packets.

I purchased a large packet of fresh banana leaves for our trip to South Padre Island last weekend, and the brainstorming began on the drive to the island. The leaves (as you can see in the photo) were beautiful. I paid less than two dollars for several of these huge, gorgeous green wrappers!

Banana leaves make a lovely presentation for Thai Fish in Banana Leaves, but of course you can substitute parchment paper or foil. I remembered to pack my 2-tiered bamboo steamer… knowing this was not an item found in every kitchen.  ๐Ÿ˜€

South Padre Island (SPI for short) is a very long, narrow barrier island off the coast of Texas. Given our subtropical climate in south Texas, we are able to enjoy the coast even during the winter months! Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) allow us to cook while on vacation, and that continues to be a priority. Our condo had an incredible view, and a very well-appointed kitchen… What more could we ask for?

After checking in at our condo, we made the short drive over the Queen Isabella Causeway bridge to Port Isabel in search of fresh gulf snapper. Los Tortugos Seafood Market came highly recommended, and it did not disappoint. The snapper was absolutely beautiful.

A Thai flavor profile – ginger, kaffir lime, chiles, coconut milk, fish sauce – seemed like a perfect direction to take this tropically-inspired dish. I had the ingredients in my pantry at home, and they did make it to the condo.  ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I set about whisking together a curry marinade for the snapper, poured it over top (flesh side up), and let it bathe in those lovely flavors while we prepped the side dishes. We decided on Coconut Rice and Thai Curried Opo Squash and Peppers.

The entire menu came together so quickly, even with the imbibing and banter… Lol. I’m fairly certain someone will give me grief over using internet slang in a post, but it IS appropriate in this instance!

📋 Ingredients Notes

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

Marinade

  • coconut milk
  • Thai green curry paste
  • fish sauce
  • limes
  • brown sugar
  • minced garlic
  • fresh ginger

Mango Salsa

  • 2 mangos
  • 1-2 fresno or jalapeno chiles
  • 2 scallions
  • a handful of cilantro leaves
  • juice of 2 limes

Fish

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh snapper fillets
  • banana leaves (see Tips)

🔪 Instructions

  1. Marinate the fish – Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Place fish fillets flesh side up (skin down if present). Pour marinade over the fillets. Soak 30 minutes (more or less is fine too).
  2. Make the salsa – Combine salsa ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Make the banana leaf and fish packets – Depending on size of the fillets, cut a generous piece of banana leaf. Remove fish portions from the marinade and place on banana leaf. Wrap it up burrito-style to form a fairly tight packet. The leaves will probably tear along the veins. This is okay. Use kitchen shears to trim away excess.
  4. Steam the fish – Place in the steamer. A two-tiered steamer can easily accommodate 4 to 6 of these packets. To a wok or large pot, add 2-3 inches of water. The water should not touch the lower tier of the steamer. Cover the steamer. Bring the water to a boil. Keep the water at a rolling boil, but do not allow it to boil dry. Add additional water if necessary. Depending on the thickness of your fish, it will be done in 10-15 minutes. A good rule of thumb is about 10 minutes for an inch thick piece of fish.
  5. Heat the marinade – Add the remaining marinade to a small saucepan. Heat and simmer until ready to serve.
  6. To serve: Unwrap the fish, drizzle with a bit of the warm marinade, a scoop of mango salsa, and garnish with chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Serve with lime wedges.

💭 Tips

What kinds of fish work best in this dish? As explained in the post, on photo day we bought some beautiful, fresh Gulf red snapper. It was fantastic. I have done this with sustainable barramundi as well. Halibut, sea bass, cod, mahi mahi would all be good. Really, any firm fish will go well with the tropical flavors.

Is the Thai green curry paste hot? YES. If you are not familiar with it, you will want to start with a small amount, taste, and add if desired.

Storing Thai curry fish with mango salsa – I don’t care for leftover fish. I cook one 4 to 6 ounce portion of fish per person. The mango salsa is good the next day. You can use it on tacos or with chips!

This fish recipe makes plenty of sauce. After drizzling it over the fish, you can serve it on stir-fried veggies or on coconut rice.

🧂 Useful Stuff

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Cast Iron Wok
Green Curry Paste
Bamboo Steamer

🍷 Pairing Suggestions

Coconut rice is a must with this tropical fish dish! We have done a simple vegetable stir-fry, quick cucumber salad, and my favorite, opo squash.

An easy pairing with any fish recipe is a sauvignon blanc. The crisp, dry, citrus notes are lovely. I am not one to be super concerned about perfect pairings, but a dry rosé is another great option.

The snapper needs only about 10-15 minutes to steam in its banana leaf packet. On this specific occasion, we started the coconut rice, sliced the veggies, removed the snapper from its marinade, wrapped each portion in a generous piece of banana leaf, and placed them in my bamboo steamer.

I then stir-fried the opo squash, red peppers, and red onion in coconut oil, then poured the remaining curry marinade in the pan. The vegetables simmered in the marinade while the fish finished cooking. We unwrapped the banana leaf packets, saving the bottom portion for plating. I drizzled a bit of the warm marinade from the squash over the fish, garnished it with chopped cilantro and basil and a scoop of the mango salsa.

With the crashing waves before us, a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay in our glasses, and the company of awesome people in the kitchen, it is hard to imagine a more perfect atmosphere for cooking an incredible meal.

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

📖 Recipe

A close up of Thai Curried Snapper In Banana Leaves on a white plate.
Yield: 4 servings

Thai Curried Snapper in Banana Leaves

A stack of banana leaves, with a white plate of Thai fish in banana leaves with mango salsa.

A simple Thai curry flavored marinade adds tropical flavor to fresh fish steamed in banana leaves. Serve it with coconut rice and stir-fried veggies for a meal that evokes images of palm trees swaying in the breeze!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 1 cup coconut milk*
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste*
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • zest of 1 lime and juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

Mango Salsa

  • 2 mangos, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 fresno or jalapeno chiles, minced
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • a handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • juice of 2 limes

Fish

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh snapper fillets
  • banana leaves

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients. Place fish fillets flesh side up (skin down if present). Pour marinade over the fillets. Soak 30 minutes (more or less is fine too).
  2. Combine salsa ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Depending on size of the fillets, cut a generous piece of banana leaf. Wrap it up burrito-style to form a fairly tight packet. The leaves will probably tear along the veins. This is okay. Use kitchen shears to trim away excess.
  4. Place in the steamer. A two-tiered steamer can easily accommodate 4 to 6 of these packets.
  5. To a wok or large pot, add 2-3 inches of water. The water should not touch the lower tier of the steamer. Cover the steamer. Bring the water to a boil. Keep the water at a rolling boil, but do not allow it to boil dry. Add additional water if necessary. Depending on the thickness of your fish, it will be done in 10-15 minutes. A good rule of thumb is about 10 minutes for an inch thick piece of fish.
  6. While the fish steams, add remaining marinade to a small saucepan and simmer.
  7. To serve: Unwrap the fish, drizzle with a bit of the warm marinade,* a scoop of mango salsa, and garnish with chopped cilantro and Thai basil. Serve with lime wedges.
  8. Enjoy!

Notes

I use lite coconut milk. Full fat coconut milk is fine as well.

I have made this dish with yellow and green curry paste. We like the flavor of the green best, but both are delicious. Red curry paste will work as well. Try them all! For more on Thai curry paste see Curry By Color.

Thai curry paste is spicy, so start with the smaller amount if you're uncertain. Of course homemade curry paste is best, but commercially prepared ones are just fine.

Easy and approachable green curry paste recipe.

Authentic green curry paste recipe.

I keep this green curry paste in my refrigerator (just in case), and it's quite good.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1 grams

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 337Total Fat: 5gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCarbohydrates: 38gProtein: 38g

Did you make this recipe?

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Cool Places In South Padre Island:

Ceviche Ceviche

South Padre Island beach front condo rental

Wanna Wanna beach bar and grill

Thai Curried Snapper In Banana Leaves

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18 Comments

  1. I am only just starting to cook with asian flavors and techniques I’m really enjoying stocking up on all the new to me spices. Green curry paste is going on the list as are banana leaves. I wonder if I can get them at the Caribbean produce stand down the street. Will check! Thanks for bringing this to Saucy Saturdays!

    1. Oh, Christine, I hope you can! Please let me know? I would think you’d find them. I think it was Swayam that told me she’s used them to steam fish in an Indian preparation. It really is a lovely method! I love Saucy Saturdays, and really need to put a reminder on my computer ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Mark! I’ve been hearing that people don’t have access to banana leaves (I sure didn’t in New Mexico), but it really is a lovely way to cook fish…

  2. We really have a thing for quotes!! And I LOVE how you write!! I hope you are not missing your kids too much, but i know u must be.. As for this dish…well..its so brilliant!
    We do something so so similar in India.. Banana leaves steamed fish in a light mustard and coriander marinade..Gorgeous Tamara.
    Xo

    1. Great minds think alike Swayam ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh, I do miss my “kids,” even though they’re all grown up! I was blessed to have them locally for most of their lives, so this has been an adjustment… I will have to try an Indian preparation for fish in banana leaves. If I had to pick a favorite flavor profile, it’d probably be Indian. Thanks Swayam!

  3. I am drooling right now! This looks so good! I love anything steamed in Banana leaves! My grandparents used to steam food or serve food in banana leaves when I was younger, but I’ve never tried fish! I have to get my hands on some banana leaves to try this out – I’ll have to find an online store!

  4. I could eat fresh fish everyday! I was eyeing of the snapper last time I went to the fishmonger but wasnt sure what to do with it. Now I know!

    1. It’s a super flavorful and healthy way to prepare it! And I’m with you… I could eat fish every day ๐Ÿ™‚ We lived in landlocked New Mexico for 22 years, so I’m really enjoying the availability of super fresh fish and seafood!

    1. Yes! Every time I make it, I will think of South Padre Island, the view, the food, and spending time with 3 of my favorite people ๐Ÿ™‚ Miss you sissy!