There are times when I should just shrug my shoulders in defeat, lay the camera down and just go make myself a Bloody Mary. Only after the first sip would I grab a blank sheet of paper, a black sharpie marker and just draw you a picture of my dish. Because there is no such thing as a good-looking dead fish:
This yellowtail snapper just doesn’t look so happy. Ok. I know, I know. He’s not chipper because he’s fucking dead. But I’d like to think that in my cheerful little sunshiney world, my food wants to be eaten. Am I so arrogant to believe that this fish wiggled its little tail for years, dreaming of the perfect blend of spices that would enhance his natural sweetness? Debating with his schoolmates on which cooking technique brings out his nutty flavor and flaky texture: grilling or steaming?
Well, I hope I made this little guy proud – I opted for simple, smoky and grilled. After cleaning the whole fish, I stuffed him with fresh herbs from the garden and a generous sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt, a gift from Melinda and Dani (which by the way is now the favorite salt in the Steamy Kitchen. poor Kosher got knocked up by Cumin in a scandalous threesome orgy with Paprika. they have all been punished and are banned to the back of the cupboard until further notice. Pepper’s pretty pissed.)
Grilling the whole fish on the banana leaf does 2 things:
- Prevents the fragile fish from sticking to the grill grates
- Adds a mellow smoky, sweet flavor to the fish
You can purchase banana leaves at most Asian and Latin supermarkets – look for them in the frozen section. If you don’t have banana leaf, you can simple use a couple sheets of tin foil.
Grilled Whole Fish on Banana Leaf
- 1 whole fish
- sea salt & pepper
- a handful of fresh herbs (I used Thai basil and cilantro)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1-3 banana leaves (about 3x larger than your fish) or double layer of tin foil
- lemon wedges
- Preheat your BBQ grill on high for 15 minutes.
- If you are using frozen banana leaf, defrost in sink in warm water, unfold.
- Clean your whole fish: Have your fishmonger scale and gut the fish for you. Its a messy business to scale a fish in your home kitchen sink! Even though your fishmonger gutted the fish for you - here's an important tip. The lining of the gut area is very fishy tasting and smelling. Usually, the thin membrane is still attached. Just use the tip of the knife to scrape the tough membrane lining and pull it out. Sometimes the color is white, sometimes it is pinkish. After cleaning, with sharp knife, slash fish diagonally 3 times per side to allow it to cook more evenly (which I totally forgot to do in my photo).
- Season & stuff the whole fish: Season fish inside with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Stuff with fresh herbs - stems and all. Use twine to tie the fish so that the herbs don't fall out during grilling. Brush both sides of fish with cooking oil. Season outside with sea salt and pepper.
- Grill: When the grill is hot, lay the banana leaf on the grate and gentlly place fish in the middle of the leaf. You can use multiple layers if you want. The leaf will curl and char into a wonderfully smoky brown color. Grill 6-10 minutes then carefully flip fish with a large spatula and grill another 6-10 minutes. My 1.5 pound fish took about 8 minutes per side. Check doneness by checking the thickest part of the fish - meat should separate easily and be flaky. Serve with lemon wedges.
Riding the bus in Beijing traffic was a scary experience so Scott (husband) decided it was best we arranged our own ride.
It’s good to be back home after 14 days of adventure, 10 airplanes, 9 buses, 4 hotels, 1 cruise ship and a canoe.We had the most amazing and memorable times – I can’t wait to share photos with you! Still sorting through my 1,000+ photos (thank goodness for a digital camera!). I’ll quickly share one moment with you – The Great Wall. The climb up was easy. We were warned not to be “heroes” and climb too far up.
“Aw…that warning is for wimps! I want to take a picture at the top!” So off I went up, up, up.
What the tour guide left out was the reason for the warning….you’ve gotta come all the way back down!
The steps were uneven and steep – which made it really hard. I had to hold the handrails and go slowly all the way back down.
Small tiny steps….GOOD!
Big fat steps….BAD!
Halfway down, I got tired and got passed by an older lady who let go of the railing to pass me and then looked back at me totally annoyed. Scott was there to capture the moment.
OUCH! I got pwned by that lady! WTF?!?!
Missing Saffron Winner?
Threemilechild….you have 24 hours to contact me with your address before I pick another Saffron winner! All of you who entered the contest – stay tuned – you could be the alternate winner!
Our next drawing is for Vanilla Beans! Start thinking of your favorite recipe that includes vanilla. Easy, huh? I’ll post the contest in the next couple of days.
Was soooooo good! Had a party 6 hours after we landed – thank you to everyone who came to watch the show!! Can’t wait to post the clip. Thank you to WEDU PBS and The Gulf Coast Journal with Jack Perkins for making one of my dreams come true!! Onward to the next adventure!
More seafood recipes:
Pecan Crusted Tilapia with Honey Glaze
Simple recipe, will try that on holidays. And by the way, welcome back!
I forgot to tell you that my wife and I tried cooking the fish in some of our banana leaves. It fliped our compny out when we asked them to cut some of the leaves from our banana plants. Then they really flipped out when they saw us wrap the fish in the leaves. It was worth it just to see their expressions — kind of like your expression in the last picture! Thanks for such a grea and easy idea!
Well, this blog post is from two years ago, but I thought I’d share this. I was recently in China (a little over a month ago) and went on the Great Wall. And let me tell you! You got it easy. I went with my family and a friend’s family to a section more remote and a lot less crowded (that is, a lot less travelled!) than yours, and none of our parents read the brochure describing that particular stretch. We ended up hiking for 3-4 hours, mostly over rubbled areas that hadn’t been repaired. The first quarter was fixed similar as in your photos, but after that were hills of steep steps like yours or worse, except crumbling away. And not only were there no handrails, in many places the walls themselves had fallen away, sometimes almost completely! Frightening, but satisfying afterwards I suppose.
I bet you ate well after that climb! ~jaden
In your grilled fish description you start by lamenting the requisite ugliness of dead fish, but your pics are great. Sure, the eyes always look nasty after a good cookin’, but that not withstanding, your pics rock!
Thank you Josh! ~j
hehe i’ve fallen on your blog a couple of weeks ago and i’ve been addicted to your posts ever since. you’re totally hilarious 🙂
i’d love to make that fish but i have one question: do you think I could bake that fish wrapped up in banana leaves in the oven? I don’t feel much like lighting up my barbecue in the middle of winter 😛
Wonderful site Jaden. Congrats. Was wondering if you would like to contribute some recipes for a ladies magazine published in Cambodia.
Cambodian ladies would surely love to have them.
I love to use banana leave to grill fish too! Just absolutely delicious!
There’s something amazing that happens to food steamed in banana leaves versus plain parchment paper haha. Gorgeous photos and funny posting as usual.
I thought I’d left a comment, but it seems to have disappeared! At any rate, hilarious sequence of photos. Your wall-fu must not be strong.
And, it’s actually quite easy to make any fish look happy and ready to be eaten: http://www.flickr.com/photos/s-kat/1878290996/
*shakes head slowly* Pwned like a n00b!1!!
That really is a hilarious sequence.
Oh, and it’s quite possible to photograph a dead fish and make it look happy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/s-kat/1878290996/
Hehehehe…this is really funny!
Love your blog! That grilled fish looks de-li-cious!
This looks delicious Jaden! I love the commentary as well! Priceless!
i love the china stories..esp older lady passing you! 🙂
Great site! I like using banana leaves & where I live they are readily available. In China & Hong Kong (I used to live in HK), the older ladies are the worst for pushing their way through & they don’t care who they push!
Hi again Jaden! I’ve tagged you for a meme and I’ve got an award for you too.
Lol! I love the look of shock in the last photo. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip! Everytime I go back to China I get sick for the first week, bleh. I’ve never had grilled fish like that before but omg it sounds good. I want some.
Yes, in the Philippines we grill the fish by wrapping it with banana leaves, around 2-3 rounds. The fish is done when the banana leaves are already charred. My stuffing would include tomatoes, onions and ginger. I think the ginger removes the fishy smell.
This looks fantastic and just the sort of fish dish my hubby and I will love! We will do this the next time we visit his mom’s egg farm because she has banana trees growing all over there…yay! 🙂
Love your great wall pics!
It’s okay, old ladies kick my ass in the pool sometimes. They’re slow, but steady. Sometimes I glare angrily at them. I think your fish looks happy…or at least the same as when he was living.
Love the idea of the fish in Banana leaves. Probably neither will happen in this household unless I can use salmon, trout, or cod.
Practically no other fresh fish available without a big trek. And those banana leaves…not in South Oxfordshire! But I still can imagine how wonderful and exotic it would be.
That is funny the old lady beat you downhill. More ginseng is needed, woman!
Darrell – Great! I’m happy that you enjoyed sniffing burnt banana leaves!
Kitt- I missed STEAK. So we’ve had steak the past 3 nights. Oh and pizza too! I loved my hairy crab dinner – a delicacy – each small crab was like $15. It’s hairy crab season! I don’t know if you saw Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations in China, but he featured hairy crab. Strange name for the little bug but worth every single bite.
Aw, threemilechild, just when I had my hopes up!
Welcome home, Jaden. What food from home did you miss most? What did you like best there?
Great pics, of fish and China. More please!
grilled, steam, fried, baked fish, i love them all.
what funny pictures you had from your vacation! you should be crowned lady of many interesting expressions! 😀
ohh I love the pictures.. it looks tasty indeed
Oh yes it’s sulking but it should feel honored to “die” in the hands of Jaden. Hahha!
I made this dish on my big green egg tonight, stuffed a red snapper full of herbs, and grilled a hen of the woods mushroom along with it…fantastic!!!, needed several sheets of leaves, but at 2 bucks an lb, very cheap… The fish absorbed wonderful smokey, herby and ginger flavors ( from minced ginger rub in cavity )…the burning banana leaves left me sniffing for my hippie days, one of the best pieces of pices I have ever cooked, or had…thanks Jaden for sharing the idea, you rock!, and I wonder why you aren’t on the food network…but that might spoil a good thing….!!!
Jaden, welcome back! The fish looks amazing even if it is dead. I have been wanting to use banana leaves for a while now and this may be a great use for them.
teeehehehehehuahahahahahahaha … I can’t stop myself from laughing at that ‘look’ on ya face when you found out that you got pwned by an old lady! I haf to say, she doesn’t really look like a FRIENDLY type of person from the pic …
Ahem, onto other things! WELCOME BACK jaden!!! Good to know that you had a good trip in China! I’m sooo jealous!! 😉 Yum looking fish you got there!! I still don’t get what is wrong with that fish, I mean it’s not FUGLY at all … in fact it look HOT from my screen… i swear i can SMELL it too! Thanks for the recipe by the way, it will be a nice Sunday dinner outdoor today…
p.s: PLEEEASE post up s’more pictures of u and ur family in China, thanks
Oh Jaden, you always bring a smile to my face. Welcome Back! Those pictures are great, especially of that older woman pwning you. And the fish, well, we can’t all be happy with our lot in life, I guess. So you did him a favor by eating him. I never knew about banana leaves, so thanks for teaching me something new, as usual.
It’s great to have you back, Jaden! Love the pic of you and Scott on the trishaw(?) and your expression in the photo after the one with the ol’ lady is PRICELESS! HAHA!
I think your fish looks absolutely delish – dead is always good in my books, I don’t like sashimi!
So glad you had a wonderful, fabulous trip and arrived safely home. I’m looking forward to more pictures. I had to laugh at the pics of you getting dusted by the little old lady.
Eeks. I replied to the email, and it didn’t tell me it bounced. I’m trying again from my gmail account, instead. (Maybe gmail saw “You won X contest” and decided it was spam?)
Holy shit, you are funny.
You need to read Douglas Adam’s “Restaurant at the End of the Universe” and get the cows description of which parts of him are best. Too bad about pepper!
Fantastic trip – I am soooo jealous!
Jayden – So good to have you back! The fish looks great…I’m happy that you are enjoying the salt. I just signed up for your dim sum class in SoCal and am really looking forward to meeting you!
Oh yeah, tell me about photographing dead fish.. I have a dish up on my blog and that looks vicious!
Check it out when you have time 🙂
Welcome home – that fish looks simply superb! I like them dead too (don’t tell my girlie who loves checking out the live ones at the market). I’ll have to try it.
Hilarious photos of China so far BTW. Maybe you and hubby should get a rickshaw for home – he looks like he’s quite good at that chauffeuring thing.
Wasn’t the Wall spectacular? I couldn’t get over how short the guys who built it must have been – some of the arches I could barely fit under. I also like your look of utter shock on the steps – those older Chinese women need lessons in Wall steps etiquette, let me tell ya! 🙂
In Manila (where almost every backyard—yours or neighbor’s— has banana plants) we grill fish IN banana leaf: stuff the belly and head with chopped tomato and onion, then wrap the fish in banana leaf twice over (no need to truss the fish with twine). Try lining your skillet with a banana leaf (cut round) next time you make a frittata–and get the same minty-smoky flavor imparted by the banana leaf.
Looking forward to more photos of your trip to China, especially with the little boys.
I saw some photos of Josh Hartnett climbing the Great Wall a few weeks before you. You could’ve had a celebrity sighting! Your expression is hilarious. Wimp! I can’t believe you let an old lady pass you! 😛
Blondee- I’m not sure I understand your question. I even had a glass of wine, re-read and still don’t get it!!!
Jim- up and down, diagonally.
Marvin- this is the perfect time of the year to visit. It was about 60-70F.
Elise- dude. that is one fugly fish!
LPC- awww…thank u!
Mercedes- great tip!
Suji- LOL!! Thaw first, unfold and wipe dry.
Welcome back! Cool pictures of the Great Wall and you gave that fish the perfect finish! 🙂
That fish looks tasty! Great photos! I have yet to try cooking a whole fish. I think I might have to try it soon.
It is soooooo good to have you back! Can’t wait to hear and see more.
Welcome back Jaden! We’re glad you’re back.
We missed you and your blogs.
Was that a threesome straight, bi or gay orgy? I better get sugar in to enhance the situatuion!..lol
Lovely pictures and lucky you, as you had your hubby given you a ride.
looks delicious…glad to hear you made it back safely!
Thanx for sharing ur superbs from China.
Oh how I love your posts! Those pics are great!
Poor little fish, I think it looks good anyway!
You’re hilarious! Ha! I can only imagine you stopping on the Great Wall, posing for that picture and then saying to people around you, “But, it’s for my blog!” 🙂
Your husband is awesome. I totally want to have a beer with him now.
Oh yeah. Tasty fish!
welcome back! Looking forward to those 1,000 pics you took.
The grilled fish looks awesome – nothing wrong with it at all!
You never fail to give me a good laugh…the fish may not be happy, but I bet he was a tasty little bugger!
Yayyy You are back! The first and last pictures are a hoot. Let me be honest here for a second;). As soon as I saw the picture of you in the rick-shaw, I said, “Wait these cute guys pull them in China. I gotta go then”. And then I found that’s your husband… oh well ! 😉
Question? If I use frozen banana leaves.. Just thaw and use it or do I have to take any extra precautions?
I love me some dead fish :), don’t care how they look 😉
I think the fish looks beautiful, even if it is dead 😉 By the way, banana leaves can also be found at hispanic markets (think banana leaf tamales). If you can’t find banana leaves, leaves from other edible-fruit trees can work like fig leaves or lotus leaves.
Jaden! Welcome back 🙂 Dude, I can make any fish look like a supermodel. I’ll prove it in one of my posts these days. Props to your hubs for capturing priceless moments during your trip 😀 Can’t wait to see the rest of the pics!! Sort, Sort, Sort! and then Post, Post, Post!
I stumbled across your blog about a month ago, and I have to tell you, you have the best writing voice. It is hysterical. Love all your posts and your photographs!
That’s one good-looking dead fish! When he was modeling for you, did he work for scale? 😉
Good to have you back, dear, it’s been pretty boring watching this blog of yours do absolutely nothing …
Welcome home! The climb down from the Great Wall looks horrible! But your dead fish doesn’t look so bad — you are one amazing photographer.
Hi Jaden – that is the best photo of a grilled whole fish I’ve ever seen. Love the composition, the angle, the lighting, the green banana leaves on the red table cloth. Here’s a photo I took of a grilled fish I took this summer. You think your fish is ugly? Hah!
I actually think the fish looks awesome – a good picture, but then again, I once grossed out vegetarians sitting next to me at a Thair restaurant by ordering a whole fried fish and exclaiming “Oh, cool, look it’s still got its eyes!!”
He does look sad, despite being dead. However, he also looks like a beautifully dressed fish!
I’m so glad you have returned & look forward to your next post 🙂
Haha this post cracked me up. Your and your husbands facial expressions are great! Welcome back 🙂 Glad to have you back here to make more posts!
Cool grilled whole fish.
Welcome back J! What’s the weather like in China this time of year? From your pictures, it doesn’t look too hot or too cold.
What a HOT couple!! Great pictures and yes, dead things usually don’t photography well. LOL!!
Welcome back!. And yes there’s no such thing as a good looking dead fish . I’ll remember your tips if and when I decide to make the trip to the great wall.
Welcome back! Glad you had a great trip.
Slash the fish three times lengthwise, or up-and-down?
That’s a damn yummy looking snapper you’ve got there… Of course, what do you think the odds are that I’ll be able to find some banana leaves here in Wisconsin… in fall… in the dark?
Other than that, it looks like you had a blast in China. Sorry about the old lady passing you, but, since it’s still a Communist country, there’s a pretty good chance she’s been taking performance-enhancing steroids.
i have banana leaves in my freezer for what, i dunno but now i do…only problem is how do i peel apart the fish without bones?
ps your sechuan salt is the one i am using for practically everything now….