This is a classic Lao recipe for steamed fish in banana leaf. The marinade for the snapper is just amazing - a deeply fragrant blend of Asian herbs and spices. Look for any unfamiliar ingredients at Asian grocery stores.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (69 votes)


  • 2 tbsp uncooked glutinous rice
  • 3 lemongrass stems, white part only, sliced
  • 4 small red chillies, sliced
  • 1 red Asian shallot, chopped
  • 1 handful chopped dill
  • 1 handful chopped basil, with fowers if possible
  • 6 spring onions (scallions), sliced
  • 1 tsp padek (Laotian fermented fish sauce) or mam nem (Vietnamese fermented anchovy sauce)
  • 4 makrut (kaffir lime) leaves, torn
  • 2 x 200g telopia or snapper fillets, bones removed
  • 4 banana leaves, cut into four 30cm (12 inch) squares
  • Sticky rice, to serve

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.


Soaking time 20 minutes

Soak the rice for 20 minutes in a small bowl of water. Strain the rice, then tip into a large mortar. Pound with a pestle until it becomes a sticky paste. Add the lemongrass, chilli and shallot and pound again. Add the dill, basil and spring onion and pound again. Add a pinch of sea salt, 1 tablespoon water, the padek or mam nem and the lime leaves. Cut the fish into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces and add them to the mortar. Mix together with a large spoon. Soften the banana leaves, either over a gas fire, in a hot frying pan, or by steaming or microwaving them for a few minutes.

Lay two banana leaves on the bench, at diagonals to one another. Place half the fish mixture in the centre, bring the corners together and enclose the corners to form a pyramid. Pin the edges together with toothpicks to secure the filling. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second parcel.

Half fill a steamer, wok or large saucepan with water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Place the parcels in the steamer, fat side down, and steam for 20 minutes. Serve hot, with sticky rice.