15 Jun2009


Since I learned that certain types of lapu-lapu were “at risk”, I have avoided buying any of the broad species for many months. And we will continue to cut back on our family consumption of lapu-lapu. But I am hoping that this particular type of lapu-lapu in the photo below,a muddy brown one with spots, which is still fairly common in Batangas markets, isn’t yet on that list of “at risk” fish because I couldn’t resist buying it at the Nasugbu market last weekend! If I recall correctly, it was certain black and red groupers/lapu-lapu we should refrain from consuming.


The fish, although iced by the fisherman who caught it several hours before, was still incredibly fresh, so I thought it would be a shame to fry it. Steaming it with a touch of soy, ginger, and sesame oil would work, but we had been there and done that several times. So it was time to try something a little different.


First we needed some fresh banana leaves that we cut down from a tree an empty lot next door. The rib was cut out of the center of the leaves, and the sections passed over a hot flame to sterilize it and more importantly, make the leaf more supple and less likely to tear.



Next we prepared the ingredients from whatever we had in-house. Some slivered ginger, thinly sliced onions, green chilies, sliced dayap, sliced garlic, ½ can of coconut cream (only the top creamy part, not the coconut water), Kikkoman soy sauce and some salt and pepper.


Onto two large pieces of banana leaves, I sprinkled some of the aromatics and other ingredients to form a flavor punch and space between the fish and the wrapper. Laid the fish onto the aromatics and covered the fish with the remaining ingredients. I whisked the soy sauce (not too much) into the coconut milk and poured this all over the fish. You can also stuff the stomach with some of the aromatics.


Place another leaf on top of the fish then wrap it all up nicely. I used kitchen twine to secure it all. Then we placed this onto a large piece of aluminum foil and straight onto a hot barbecue. The foil prevents the banana leaves from charring and holds in any juices that escape from the bundle.


This fish was about 1 kilo, and we cooked it for 19-20 minutes. You will need to adjust cooking time based on the intensity of your charcoal fire and the size of your fish. From the steam activity, we knew this was “bubbling away” inside the wrap for some 12+ minutes…


Carefully transfer the package to a serving platter, remove the foil and cut open the strings and banana leaves. The aroma that escapes with the steam when you first open the fish is incredibly amazing! The fish was perfectly cooked, opaque/white and moist and juicy and flavorful. Add a bit of of the creamy coconut sauce and a little sliver of chili with each mouthful with some rice was delicious…


The flavor and aroma of the banana leaves was incredibly distinct. Smoky and intense in the sauce, but just a subtle effect on the flesh of the fish. I realize some might consider it more authentic to put the banana leaf package straight onto the fire, but I find that often burns and chars and the marinade escapes into the coals… try this modified version with foil and it is practically fool proof! Enjoy!


P.S. A couple of these photos of me prepping the dish were taken by AT.



  1. lyna says:

    looks yummy!! You’re right, grilling with the banana leaf directly on the fire burns the leaves and it sticks to the fish. Will try it this waya. Salamat sa tip

    Jun 15, 2009 | 10:38 am


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  3. silly lolo says:

    I can eat all that, all by my self! But, heed that “At Risk” warning. Here in the SF Bay Area, we cannot fish for salmon for the 2nd year in a row. Salmon fishing boats are being sold by the dozen! Long time commercial fishermen are now out of business. Farmed salmon simply does not cut it.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 10:55 am

  4. siopao says:

    for a list of all the at-risk species of seafood you can look here:


    Jun 15, 2009 | 11:23 am

  5. sanojmd says:

    i love rock cod! i once saw this fish at the asian market here and i couldn’t resist buying it even though it weighed more than a kilo. i fried it and put some sweet and sour sauce that i made. and it was really good. but the drawback with any kind of fish that is so big is that it is already a bit rubbery. still tastes so good though..next time when i see another rock cod i will try to steam it. but could not make your version because banana leaves are hard to find here.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 1:19 pm

  6. Xed says:

    Nice shots AT!

    Jun 15, 2009 | 1:30 pm

  7. paulo says:

    yummy! I could imagine the aroma in my head. can you also share some recipes for talakitok?

    Jun 15, 2009 | 4:02 pm

  8. luna miranda says:

    your steamed lapu-lapu looks delicious! i can only imagine the aroma of ginger, onions, garlic, etc. same concept as “Pinaputok” without the coconut milk.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 4:08 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    paulo, there are a few posts in the archives with talakitok…

    Jun 15, 2009 | 4:35 pm

  10. dishesandplaces says:

    this sounds totally delicious and really a good take on what seems to be traditional provincial cooking.

    i feel that the people in the rural, provincial areas make fantastic cooks. since they’ve had to do with so little, they’ve been able to bring out the best in all the ingredients they use

    Jun 15, 2009 | 5:57 pm

  11. GayeN says:

    Yumm..!!! Thanks MM!

    Jun 15, 2009 | 6:02 pm

  12. natie says:

    YUM!!! sanodmj, banana leaves are usually sold in the frozen section.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 8:59 pm

  13. millet says:

    will try that with biasong! not expecting much in terms of citrus flavor, but the arome..the aroma….

    Jun 15, 2009 | 9:19 pm

  14. paolo says:

    there’s this place in iloilo that they do the same thing but with hito ( and without the sauce ) , and i miss it.
    thanks to you MarketMan…

    Jun 15, 2009 | 9:54 pm

  15. Apicio says:

    I suspect that the customary wrapping of fish for grilling in sheets of banana leaf is mainly to lessen charring of the fish itself which also renders the fish easier to turn and pick up from the fire in one integral piece, not necessarily to catch any sauce or cooking juices. Catching the sauce is your aluminum foil’s role. On the other hand, I think the charred leaf would impart a more complex flavor to the fish just like the charred banana leaf lining gives to bibingka. This is also why the seasoning for the famous Malay ikan panggang (grilled fish wrapped in banana leaf) is intentionally prepared and applied as a thick paste, so no precious sauce runs out, get lost or go to waste.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 10:16 pm

  16. Diwata08 says:

    SARAP SARAP!!! Maraming Salamat po! Would adding pandan leaves alter the taste?

    Jun 15, 2009 | 10:58 pm

  17. Gener says:

    It was descrived perfectly the procedures of cooking, then everyone can do the same,,Im leaving now to buy that type of fish and steal some banana leaves nearby! I cant wait to cook that! thanks for the tip MM…..

    Jun 15, 2009 | 11:27 pm

  18. betty q. says:

    Sanojmd…All Vietnamese grocery stores carry those as well as big Asian stores.

    Jun 15, 2009 | 11:37 pm

  19. gutompalagi says:

    This relates to your last two entries. First of all, I am one of your avid lurkers; finally coming out of the shadows for a hopefully positive contribution on your quest and exploits in my favorite field. Used to go to Matabungkay beach quite often in the sixties. In the town of Tuy, which (if my failing memory serves me right) is after Nasugbu, there were a few bakeries. We always stopped there to buy a local baked product which resembles your “panisi”. This was called “Tirso”. There was no sugar involved and it was like a short breadstick. I have not been in that area since then (60’s).
    Keep up the good work MM. You are the second site I surf after the drudge report.

    Jun 16, 2009 | 12:19 am

  20. Lilibeth says:

    That looks delicious Marketman. Just in time for barbecue season. I love anything cooked with coconut milk. Will try it next weekend. Thanks for sharing.

    Jun 16, 2009 | 1:29 am

  21. Maria Clara says:

    Banana leaves are good in any fish dish. When you broil bangus add a piece of banana leaves in your stuffing and wrap the bangus in banana leaves and the broiled bangus tastes different. It is like the samurai sword in killing the fishy taste and smell in fish when cooked in it. Even when making fish sinigang put a little piece of banana leaves and your sinigang broth tastes subtle. I say you took suman to another dimension by making your lapu lapu into suman with the coconut milk in it. Banana leaves and gata complements each other like peaches and cream!

    Jun 16, 2009 | 4:37 am

  22. chinachix says:

    gorgeous! Looks like a really great summer dish… though I suspect it’ll be near impossible to replicate the the smoky flavor in gas powered bbq grill and wrapping fish in foil (which is how we’ve been grilling our fish in the absence of fresh banana leaves here)….

    natie, thanks for the tip…we’ll dig around for frozen banana leaves next time at TNT Supermarket…

    Jun 16, 2009 | 7:29 pm

  23. faithful reader says:

    We had fresh Lapu Lapu here at Zen Peninsula (A chinese Restaurant)in Millbrae California. They did not call it Lapu Lapu. I can’t remember what they called it. I just requested for fresh fish and this is what they recommeneded. When we got the fish, my dad said it was Lapu Lapu, and from looking at your pictures, it looked exactly the same. But I have to say it was soooooo good. A little bit expensive. It was $48.00 per pound and the fish was alittle over 2 pounds. But all worth the price.

    Jun 16, 2009 | 11:38 pm

  24. Upstate NY says:

    MM why certain of lapu lapu are at risk? I remember in the 80s we used to go to Divisoria market and buy this fish. We never fried them, only steam them, and we used the same ingredients like what you used. They are one of my favorites. So could you please tell me why they are at risk? Thanks in advance for your reply.

    Jun 17, 2009 | 9:43 am

  25. Upstate NY says:

    Well I am guessing that these certain types of lapu lapu are becoming extinct. So what are those types. Please can you name them if you would? Please? Thanks again.

    Jun 17, 2009 | 9:49 am

  26. Marketman says:

    Upstate NY, due to overfishing, and exports of live lapu-lapu to markets such as Hong Kong, certain types of lapu-lapu are now closer to being endangered. Mostly they are the black and red ones I believe but I don’t have a specific list of the ones at risk. If you go back in the archives and look for my post “Snippy over Snipes” I have a link to the article on lapu-lapu’s at risk…

    Jun 17, 2009 | 9:55 am

  27. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Mmmmmmmmmm…luv fish..delish!! And healthy!

    Jun 17, 2009 | 6:42 pm

  28. Gener says:

    Tried to cook that few days ago but i burn it out!! i managed to eat it anyway and still tasty though half is almost charcoaled..This fish species is already controlled in our host country,,we managed to get them through 3rd country were ban is not imposed yet! otherwise we proceed hooking them on the rock barriers…

    Jun 17, 2009 | 8:22 pm

  29. wil_b cariaga says:

    I remember seeing a HUGE grouper under the reefs when i was diving in Maldives, i think its the largest i’ve seen. . . This dish you created would definitely taste so good, mmmm with that coconut milk plus an asian mixture of aromatics yumyum. . . you’ll definitely have another serving of rice. . .

    Jun 18, 2009 | 12:38 am

  30. Upstate NY says:

    Thank you MM. I drive to Albany NY, where diverse Asian/Oriental foods/culture are found. I remember buying grouper aka lapu-lapu, especially the black ones. Recently, I haven’t seen any of this kind. That’s why when I read your post above, It immediately came to my mind if those black ones are at risk too. I came across to your post dated March 28, 2008 and the one in the picture is actually my fave. There were so many of them in Divisoria in the 80s. I wonder if there are still a lot of them there today. For additional info: I just made a research after reading your “Snippy over Snipes” and I found out that the Nassau grouper is recognized as endangered on the IUCN Red List. There is a very high rate of decline and is at serious risk of being extinct. Thanks again.

    Jun 18, 2009 | 8:04 am

  31. bagito says:

    Yum! I needed this after seeing the scary beehive pics again. Hehehe.

    Jun 18, 2009 | 11:57 am

  32. atbnorge says:

    It was the black grouper that grandmother used to steam almost every week with ginger and chives over it. Sad to know that they are on the decline…

    Jun 19, 2009 | 5:31 am

  33. cutiepie says:

    That looks delicious, it reminds me of my place makes me hungry of filipino foods. Thanks for sharing this recipe and I will try to cook again.

    Jun 20, 2009 | 8:42 am

  34. jaylordp says:

    man!!! that one is really mouth watering. i will definitely try that recipe when i get back to Polilio Island where my cousin have a LAPU LAPU FISH CAGE. I often dive it and i can still see lots of different kinds of Lapu- Lapu there.

    by the way…. we are selling that live and not ice frozen. if there is any interested pls email me at righteousradical@yahoo.com

    see you around!!!

    Jun 26, 2009 | 11:59 am

  35. rcdiz says:

    dadating ang araw mauubos na ang mga groupers/lapu lapu. kelangan farm raised na. just like shrimp. pero wala namang lasa ang farmed shrimp. matigas pa. not like ocean caught shrimp sa pilipins. malambot at masarap. i dont eat shrimp anymore. only when i am in the pilipins.

    Jun 29, 2009 | 12:28 pm

  36. Danilo Barreyro says:

    I suggest if banana leaves is unavailable pechay is a good substitute. In that case you can eat also the pechay…

    Jul 6, 2009 | 7:06 am

  37. CommodoreKwan says:

    Or wrapping in Gabi leaves with the same ingredients is great too.

    Feb 23, 2010 | 1:45 pm


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