Maly Mann, LA-based model, photographer, and self-taught chef, has shared her recipe for a vibrant, comforting fish dish inspired by traditional Cambodian flavors.
"This recipe is a dish I thought of when I was craving a Cambodian dish called fish amok. Fish amok is a Cambodian catfish curry steamed in a banana leaf with the fragrant flavors of lime leaves and lemongrass that come through from a paste called kroeung. Kroeung is the Cambodian staple — the paste that Cambodian parents make and jar up in reused plastic cookie jars to store in the fridge for the month. It’s the first thing you smell when walking into a Cambodian home. Making this transported me back to my mom’s house. I wanted something similar but different, so I whipped this up. The flavor is less pungent but still very vibrant and the textures are soft and easy on the palette. I love these flavors so much." - Maly Mann
Cilantro, mint, basil (basically any herbs for your herb bed)
Soy sauce to finish
Sesame seeds (garnish)
- Grill or steamer basket
- Toothpicks (for securing banana leaves)
- Food processor or mortar and pestle
Prepare your rice! I like to use a donabe (clay pot) for my coconut rice but whatever you fancy your rice to be cooked in is good in my books. Rinse 1 cup rice until the water turns clear. Add to a pot and divide the amount of liquid to sub with coconut milk. So for 1 cup of rice, it would be 1 cup of coconut milk and 1 cup of water. I will preface, you will have to keep an eye on your rice as coconut milk is a bit fatty. You may need to add another ⅓ cup of water halfway through the cook. To your pot of rice, add 1 lime leaf, 1 clove of garlic (minced), and a knotted pandan leaf. Turn rice on high heat then to a low simmer once the water reaches a boil. Let sit for about 20 minutes uncovered.
For the banana leaf wrapped branzini, prepare your small portion of kroeung: in a food processor add your ginger, galangal, 3 cloves of your garlic, turmeric, lemongrass, and lime leaves and blitz into a fine paste. In my case, I used a mortar and pestle and like a bit of grittiness.
Prepare your branzini by patting dry and setting onto 1 banana leaf (to prep my banana leaves, I wash them and dry them off and brush them on high flame over the stovetop to get that moisture out). Take a spoon full of your kroeung paste and brush it against the flesh and skin side. Drizzle the sides with Brightland olive oil. Finish with salt!
Wrapping up the banana leaf can be done by your intuition! I like to wrap it up like a tamale and secure the ends by poking the toothpicks in.
Before cooking the fish, quickly make your herb bed. It is like a chimichurri, but it’s really not a chimichurri. Either finely chop or mortar and pestle a good handful of an array of herbs and a clove of garlic. I used mint, basil, cilantro, parsley, and shiso. After it got to a fine texture, I added 1/2 tbsp lime juice, ½ tbsp of fish sauce, 2 tbsp Brightland EVOO, ½ tbsp Brightland red wine vinegar, ½ tsp of sugar, and soy sauce.
Time to grill or steam your fish! Throw your banana leaf tamals on there and cook for about 6-8 minutes at a medium-high heat. Flip halfway.
Open up your wrapped branzini, serve up with your herbs and coconut rice.