Recipe: Thai-style Pollock Grilled in Banana Leaves

This recipe was created as part of a paid partnership with Wild Alaska Seafood UK

Regular readers will know that I adore seafood. I go particularly crazy for crab, be it straight up with mayo, mixed into a dip or even layered in a lasagna. When you eat as much seafood as I do, experimenting becomes a necessity. I jerk my octopus; serve my prawn toast with scrambled eggs and have strong opinions on fish finger sandwiches. I feel like lots of people are wary of experimenting with different ways of cooking seafood, perhaps because they’re not sure how to cook it, or perhaps they’re worried about undercooking and as a result take things too far.

If this sounds like you then I want to encourage you to try something different next time you cook seafood, which brings us, unsurprisingly, to this recipe I’ve written for Wild Alaska Seafood UK. They asked me to use pollock, a fish known for its firm texture and pearlescent white flakes. This means that it holds up very well on the barbecue. Now, pollock doesn’t have the strength of flavour of, say, cod or haddock but you can turn this to your advantage by throwing in some pretty bold ingredients; it will absorb their characters effortlessly.

Another consideration that’s top of my list when cooking seafood is sustainability. If you’re not looking for a sustainability sticker when buying pre-packed fish (or buying it from a reputable fishmonger) then you’re doing it wrong. One of the reasons I decided to work with Wild Alaska Seafood UK is that seafood is abundant in Alaska – they’ve got a massive 34,000 miles of coastline. Daily fish counts and advanced fishing techniques mean no species has ever been overfished and fish stocks are constantly replenished for future generations.

Fish shipped from Alaska are frozen using a method developed over many years of work on the part of the Alaskan fishing industry, designed to preserve the quality of the fish as soon as it is caught. So yeah, I know we all want to guzzle as much fresh Cornish dayboat seafood as possible, but I want to highlight another option here, because I think it represents a great addition to the methods by which we can buy and enjoy seafood, safeguarding stocks in the process.

Anyway, the recipe! It’s a Northern Thai preparation known as aeb, although I’ve used the method as a guide then thrown in my favourite Thai flavours, rather than remaining true to any ‘authentic’ (urgh) recipe. There’s plenty of punch in the paste thanks to bird’s eye chilli, galangal, fresh turmeric, lemongrass et al… all those bright, sunshine flavours which work so well over smoke and flame. The banana leaves bring their own charred character to this party and I was really struck by how much they smell like tea leaves once they get going. Interesting.

I suggest you serve this with some sticky rice and a papaya salad ripped through with more chilli. It’s a meal that’s refreshing, hot, and smoky all at once and there’s the fun of serving everyone their own fish package to open up, fragrant steam a-risin’.

For more recipes using wild Alaska pollock, visit the Wild Alaska Seafood UK website

Thai-style Pollock Grilled in Banana Leaves Recipe

8 fillets wild Alaska pollock
4 banana leaves (find them in the freezer section at an Asian supermarket or buy online)
Thai basil for wrapping with the fish
Kaffir lime leaves for wrapping with the fish
Coriander to garnish
Lime wedges to garnish

You will also need small wooden skewers to seal the banana leaves

For the paste

2 stalks lemongrass
1 whole bulb garlic, cloves peeled
10 Thai shallots, peeled
5-10 bird’s eye chillies, stalks removed and sliced
8 regular dried red chillies, tough stalks removed if present
1 finger fresh turmeric, peeled and sliced
2 inches galangal, sliced
1 heaped teaspoon salt

First, make the paste. I like to make things easy for myself here by starting the paste in a mini food processor, then transferring to a pestle and mortar to finish pounding it. You could pulse it all in the food processor if you want to. Mix the paste with the fish fillets (wear gloves if you have them to avoid chilli related incidents later).

Preheat the barbecue for direct grilling.

Cut the banana leaves into large squares. You will notice they have a hard rib along one side – overlap two pieces of leaf so that you have one hard rib at the top and one at the bottom. Lay a few Kaffir lime leaves in each one, followed by a little bunch of Thai basil. Add one or two fillets on top then fold up into a package and seal with small wooden skewers.

When the flames have died down on the BBQ and all the coals are hot, place your packages on top. Mine took around 10 minutes to cook, flipping every minute or so to make sure they don’t catch too much. After this time the fish was just cooked through and the flakes still firm. The packages will be pretty black on the outside by the time you’re finished. Unwrap to a chorus of impressed noises!

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