• Spiced barramundi in banana leaf with pickled radish (China Squirrel)Source: China Squirrel

Cooking whole fish that has been rubbed in a spice paste is very traditional around all of Africa. My spice paste is very floral from the lemongrass, rich from the coconut and has a slight chilli kick.






Skill level

Average: 4.7 (7 votes)


Radish pickle

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp hot water
  • 1 small daikon (radish), halved lengthways and thinly sliced
  • 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced


Spice paste

  • 5 long red chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large banana shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) lime juice
  • 2 cm piece ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 270 ml coconut milk



  • large piece of banana leaf, to wrap fish (see Note)
  • 1 x 1 kg barramundi, gutted and cleaned
  • 2 tbsp lime juice



  • 1 packet fufu powder (see Note)
  • 1 litre (4 cups) warm water, plus more if needed

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


For the radish pickle, combine the sugar, vinegar, salt and water in a small bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar and set aside to cool. Combine the radish and chilli in a bowl and pour over the pickle liquor. Set aside for 30 minutes.

For the spice paste, blend all of the ingredients, except the coconut milk, in a food processor until smooth, then add the coconut milk and mix well.

For the fish, preheat the oven to 180ºC. Pass the banana leaf over a gas flame to a couple of times so it becomes flexible enough to wrap around the fish without breaking.

Score the fish 3-4 times diagonally on both sides. Rub with lime juice and ½ tsp salt all over. Rub half of the spice paste all over the fish. Wrap the fish in banana leaf, place in a roasting pan and roast until cooked through (20-25 minutes).

For the fufu, fill a saucepan with 1 litre warm water and place over low heat. Stir in the fufu powder vigorously to avoid lumps forming or the paste sticking to the base. Continue stirring vigorously, beating out any lumps, until it has formed into a thick, smooth paste. Scoop the fufu into a bowl moistened with warm water and use to mould into a big ball or individual balls. Keep warm.

To serve, warm the remaining spice paste in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.

Transfer the fish to a serving plate, unwrap the banana leaf, cover with the warmed spice paste and serve with the radish pickle and fufu on the side.


Chef’s note

• To prepare the banana leaf for wrapping, pass the leaf over a gas flame or heat using a kitchen blowtorch for about 5 seconds. This will make the leaf more malleable so it doesn't break and crack when you wrap the fish.

• Fufu is a traditional accompaniment in West African and Caribbean cooking. It’s made from plantain and cassava, so it’s very starchy. It’s typically eaten, rolled into balls – small or large – and served with soup or a sauce. You can buy fufu powder online or from African grocers.


Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel


Duncan Welgemoed is the head chef at AfricolaThis recipe is from The Chefs' Line - a brand new series airing weeknights at 6pm on SBS. Can the passion of a home cook beat the skills of a professional chef? Missed all the action? Catch-up online and get all the recipes #TheChefsLine.

This recipe has been edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the series.