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
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 Curried Snapper 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.
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 Curried Snapper 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. 😀
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. 😮 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! 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.
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.
If fresh red snapper is not an option, substitute the freshest firm white fish available to you. The leftover marinade can be added to your favorite vegetable to serve alongside, and don’t forget the scrumptious Coconut Rice! As I mentioned earlier, we had a bottle of Rombauer Chardonnay – probably not a perfect pairing but it is a favorite wine… I would consider serving this with a sauvignon blanc. The citrus notes complement most fish dishes. Enjoy this tropical treat, and dream of palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze!
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!
30 minPrep Time
10 minCook Time
40 minTotal Time
- 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
- 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
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh snapper fillets
- banana leaves
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).
Combine salsa ingredients. Set aside.
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.
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.
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.
I use lite coconut milk. Full fat coconut milk is fine as well. br]
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. br]
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. br]
[Authentic green curry paste recipe. br]
I keep this [green curry paste in my refrigerator (just in case), and it's quite good.