http://eatingthaifood.com 5 days ago
Northern Thai fish (tilapia) grilled in a banana leaf, known as aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล), is incredibly delicious. Here’s the full Thai street food recipe.
What could be better than fillets of fish, coated in spices and herbs, wrapped into a banana leaf package, and grilled over hot charcoal?
In this Thai recipe, I’m going to learn, and share with you, how to make a marvelous northern Thai dish called aeb.
This is an awesome dish, and I’m extremely excited to share this Thai fish recipe with you.
The fish, mixed with ground Thai herbs and spices, is wrapped in a couple layers of banana leaves, folded into a packet, and grilled on the side of the road at the market.
I’ll never forget my first moment eating aeb, it was sensationally delicious – I loved how the fish was moist and oily, yet is still had the smoky flavor of being grilled.
I cooked this recipe at my house in Bangkok, but at an Asian supermarket in the US, I’ve seen all the ingredients available – including the banana leaves.
Note: If you want to go straight to the recipe, scroll down to the recipe box below (you’ll see the video too). But keep reading and following the photos below for a more in-depth journey into aeb (แอ๊บ) and many more details about the process of cooking it.
Once you have the boneless fillets of fish, cut them into pieces, about the size of 3 – 4 bites or so, about 1/2 the size of a deck of cards.
You could either choose to use a food processor or a hand mortar and pestle, but for the best taste, so that you slowly release all the oils from the ingredients, it’s best to use the latter.
Peel the garlic, shallots, and shave the lime peel, then cut all the ingredients into small pieces to make them easier to pound.
Begin with 1/2 tsp of salt in the mortar and first pound the dry Thai chilies. Once they become flakes, add the fresh chilies, and then proceed to pound and grind the res of the ingredients in any order as long as you add everything.
Note: Turmeric is sometimes included in aeb recipes (วิธีทำ แอ๊บปลานิล), and other times it’s not – I’ve seen it both ways. But I’m a huge lover of turmeric, and since it’s so incredibly healthy, I included it in my recipe. That being said, I used an entire finger sized piece in the video, but I think it was a little too strong, so in the written recipe here, I’ve only included 1/2 a finger.
Pounding the Thai chili paste with a mortar and pestle
You don’t really need a fine paste, like you would for a Thai curry paste, instead you’re just looking for a coarse pounded mixture of spices and herbs.
This texture only took me about 15 minutes to pound, and like you can see, it’s not buttery at all, but all the ingredients are pretty well minced, and the mixture is even throughout, and a little oily.
Once your paste is like this, you can proceed on to the next step.
The next step in this Thai street food recipe is to take a mixing bowl, toss in the pieces of fish, then add the spicy chili paste mixture, and season with salt.
Go in with your hands, and fully mix everything together, making sure each piece of fish is fully coated in the spices.
Note: If you really can’t find banana leaves, you can alternatively wrap your packets in foil.
Prepare the banana leaf packages, then add lemon basil and holy basil to the bottom
With your banana leaf in place, first add a handful, no need to measure, just a nice big handful, of lemon basil and Thai sweet basil to the base.
Top it with a few pieces of the fish, making sure it’s nice and coated with the spice mixture.
Next, and I actually forgot to add them on my first packet, is to take a kaffir lime leaf, tear it in half, and stick it on top of the fish before you wrap it.
If you think about it, and if you’re grilling with charcoal, you should probably light it before you start wrapping, that way as soon as you’re done wrapping the packets, you can start grilling.
Once you have a medium heat, start to roast the banana leaf packets
For the grilling, you want about a medium heat. No flames, but pretty hot coals. For a gas grill, I’d say medium high would work best.
But don’t worry if the outer banana leaf gets burned, because the inner fish will be protected, and all that smoky roasted flavor will transfer to the fish, without the char.
Keep on roasting and flipping the Thai grilled tilapia fish packages.
I’m not sure exactly how to say when they are finished cooking, but for myself it took about 15 minutes.
I took one off too early, checked it, and it was a little undercooked, so I put it on for a few more minutes – I think about 15 minutes is around the time you should grill them.
Once you’re done grilling, you’ll have some awesome packages of delight, that should look similar to what you see above.
Be careful opening the banana leaf as it will be very hot inside, but what you smell and see will put a smile on your face immediately.
Total time: About 1.5 hours – 2 hoursRecipe size: The amount of ingredients I used made 6 individual packets; I ate three immediately.Cooking utensils: GrillFlavors: Spicy, herbs, saltyEat it with: Most of the time in northern Thailand it’s eaten along with sticky rice, but with regular steamed rice it’s excellent too, or even just plain with no rice
The French call it “En papillote” and use parchment paper in an oven (with butter, fresh or dried herbs and lemon).
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