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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:10AM


1 whole fish, about 2 pounds, scaled and cleaned

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper


1 stalk lemongrass trimmed to one 6-inch piece of center core and chopped (see note)

6 large shallots

3 cloves garlic

6 small red fresh chiles (Serrano or bird’s beak), stemmed and seeded (see note)

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (see note)

½ tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 or 2 frozen banana leaves large enough to enclose the fish (see note)

1 carrot, cut into thin diagonal slices

Lime wedges

Cut three diagonal slices ½ inch deep into the meat of the fish on each side. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and pepper.

In a blender combine spice paste ingredients through lime juice and process until fairly smooth, adding a drizzle of water if necessary to make a spreadable paste.

Thaw banana leaves and run briefly under hot water. Wipe dry and place shiny side down on a piece of foil about twice as long as the fish. Spoon 1/3 of the spice paste onto the leaf, then lay fish in center of the banana leaf. Spoon more paste into the slits on both sides of the fish and into the cavity, then spread the remaining paste on top of the fish. Arrange carrot slices down the center of the fish, tip to tail.

Fold the leaf over the fish into a tidy packet, then fold the foil around the fish, crimping to enclose completely.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. Fish should be opaque in the center, so open packet and test — if not quite cooked through, rewrap and return to oven another 10 minutes.

Remove foil and bring banana-wrapped packet to the table, where it can be opened and served with lime wedges.

Note: Lemongrass, red fresh chiles and banana leaves are at Asian and some Latin markets If you cannot find banana leaves, just use the foil to wrap fish tightly.

Judith Dunbar Hines

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