Thai Fish Grilled in a Banana Leaf Recipe (วิธีทำ แอ๊บปลานิล)

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When I first visited northern Thailand one of the first dishes I noticed while walking around a local market was a little package, wrapped in a banana leaf, being grilled over hot charcoal. I’m always curious about any kind of food, but things that are wrapped in packages of leaves… I’m enthralled and I have to stop everything I’m doing and buy one to see what it is. In this case, the lady at the market said it was called aeb (แอ๊บ), and she had a number of versions, once with catfish, one with tilapia, one with small fish, and another with minced pork. The version with tilapia fish, aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล) was what I settled for.

I tore open my banana leaf wrapped little packet, and immediately a burst of aromatic herbs and spices came pouring out; It smelled incredible. I devoured the entire packet in a couple bites. Ever since that trip to northern Thailand, one of my favorite foods to eat are these little packets of fish or meat mixed with curry paste, wrapped in banana leaves, and grilled over charcoal. The biggest problem is, although this is a common Thai street food recipe and dish to find in northern Thailand, this exact dish is rare to find in other parts of Thailand – and that includes Bangkok – they are rarely available (yes, there are other variations of dishes cooked in banana leaves in other parts of Thailand, but not this exact one).

Alright, so for this Thai fish grilled in a banana leaf recipe, here are the ingredients you’ll need:
2 tilapia fish (pla nin ปลานิล) – I deboned them myself, and I had about 600 grams of deboned fish meat – so you could also use fillets
Banana leaves for cooking (bai tong ใบตอง, substitute foil if you need to)
Toothpicks used to fasten the leaves together (fastening stick ไม้กลัด)

Here are the ingredients for the curry paste:
2 lemongrass stalks (takrai ตะไคร้)
1 head of garlic (kratiem กระเทียม)
5 Thai shallots (hom daeng หอมแดง)
10 – 20 dry Thai chilies (prik haeng พริกแห้ง)
3 – 5 fresh Thai bird chilies (prik kee noo พริกขี้หนู)
½ kaffir lime peel (pew makrut ผิวมะกรูด) – from a kaffir lime
½ finger of fresh turmeric (kamin ขมิ้น) – In this video I used a whole finger, but I think it was too much, so better to use about ½ or so. Turmeric is sometimes used in Thai aeb recipes and other times it’s not, but I love it!
1/2 tsp salt (kleua เกลือ)

Ingredients to mix with the fish:
All the fish
1.5 tsp salt (kleua เกลือ)
All the curry paste

Some more additions to add to eat banana leaf package:
kaffir lime leaves (bai makrut ใบมะกรูด)
sweet basil leaves (bai horapa ใบโหระพา)
lemon basil leaves (bai mengrak ใบแมงลัก)

Be sure to watch the full video and read more on my blog about the full direction about how to make this Thai recipe, but overall, all you have to do is cut the fish into bite sized pieces, pound the curry paste until you have a coarse paste, combine the pieces of fish, curry paste, and salt, then wrap them into little packages of banana leaves, and finally grill them or roast them until fully cook. One of the reasons aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล), or any kind of aeb, is so delicious is because it’s wrapped in banana leaves which keep the fish moist and mingle all the flavors, and yet it’s grilled so it also has the smoky grilled flavor – it’s like baking and grilling all at the same time. After you cook this aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล) and open up the package of banana leaves, and smell the aroma of all the herbs, you’ll be in love!

► Full recipe here:

Music in this video courtesy of Audio Network

This video was produced by Mark Wiens and Ying Wiens in Bangkok, Thailand: &

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