Nga-Baung-Doke (Steamed fish in a banana leaf)

Nga-Baung-Doke (Steamed fish in a banana leaf)

Serves 4

We've pinched this recipe from a very fine book called Seafood of South-East Asia by the late Alan Davidson. It's probably out of print but it's readily available at http://www.abebooks.co.uk. Introducing the recipe, Alan Davidson recounts how one evening in Rangoon, he ate two competing versions of this dish prepared by two 'skilled ladies'. Sounds like a early version of Masterchef...

Ingredients

  • 500g fish pieces
  • * ¼ tablespoonful salt
  • * 1 teaspoonful fish paste
  • * 1 teaspoonful fish sauce
  • * ¼ teaspoonful powdered turmeric
  • # 6 cloves garlic
  • # 2 small red onions
  • # 1 one-inch ginger 
  • # 1 short stalk lemon grass (white part only)
  • # 6 chilli peppers (or 2 teaspoonfuls powdered chilli)
  • 1 tablespoonful cooked rice, pounded
  • 2 tablespoonfuls grated coconut
  • ¼ teaspoonful more turmeric powder
  • ¼ teaspoonful more salt
  • 6 more small red onions, sliced
  • a six inch piece of bottle gourd, peeled and thinly sliced
  • banana leaf cut into 6-inch squares (No banana leaves? Shame on you. Try aluminium foil)
  • 15 to 20 yai-yo leaves (see below)

Method

  1. The fish should be cleaned, boned and skinned. Cut into pieces up to 2 inches long.
  2. Mix the 4 ingredients marked * then rub into the fish.
  3. Pound the 5 ingredients marked # together then combine with the rice, coconut and the second doses of salt and turmeric. Mix the onions and gourd into this paste.
  4. On each square of banana leaf place a yai-yo leaf; on this a spoonful of paste, followed by fish; then more paste; and finally another yai-yo leaf. Fold the banana leaf into a neat packet and secure with a toothpick. Steam the packets for about 15 minutes and serve them entire, leaving it to the guests to unwrap them.

[Intriguing coda from the book] 'The yai-yo leaves need not be included. The dish is more suave without them, since they have a distinctive, slightly bitter, flavour. My own view is that they should be included if possible.' Well, that's useful to know... Intriguing coda from us: Yai-yo? ... It may be the only leaf unknown to Google. The tree (as opposed to the band, song, poet, film...) is in fact findable on the internet, but only if you try very, VERY hard. Should you succeed in tracking down yai-yo leaves, please send us a pack. We'll reward you with a £25 voucher. (REF abeml13918).

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