Since I learned that certain types of lapu-lapu were â€œat riskâ€, 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, isnâ€™t yet on that list of â€œat riskâ€ fish because I couldnâ€™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, Â½ 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 â€œbubbling awayâ€ inside the wrap for some 12+ minutesâ€¦
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 deliciousâ€¦
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 coalsâ€¦ 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.