For a pretty presentation, the restaurant turns a frozen banana leaf into a boat shape in which to steam the fish. The home cook can try folding the leaf into a boat (see step-by-step photos, above, for folding directions) or can simply line a heat-proof bowl with a double thickness of banana leaf and fill it with the fish mixture for steaming. Either way, you will get the flavor and aroma of the banana leaf. Serve with Sticky or Sweet Rice (recipe given). You can also make this recipe with chicken breasts or tofu instead of seafood. • 1 1 / 2 teaspoons red curry paste • 1 / 2 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk (1 / 2 cup plus 1 / 3 cup; Chaokoh brand recommended), plus 3 tablespoons coconut milk, divided • 1 egg • 1 teaspoon sugar • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Vietnamese red fish sauce (nuoc mam, Viet Huong brand recommended) • 1 / 4 teaspoon curry powder • 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely julienned • 1 teaspoon thin-sliced lemon grass • 1 (8- to 9-ounce) tilapia fillet, well trimmed • 1 cup sliced napa cabbage • 7 small Thai basil leaves • 3 thin diagonal slices green bell peppers • 3 thin diagonal slices red bell peppers In a bowl, stir together the curry paste and 1 / 2 can (that measures 1 / 2 plus 1 / 3 cup) coconut milk until the paste dissolves. Add the egg and whisk to combine. Stir in the sugar, fish sauce, curry powder, lime leaves and lemon grass. Trim any dark parts or blood lines down the center of the fish fillet; this will result in the fillet being cut into 2 parts. Starting at the thick end of the fillet, slice each part crosswise diagonally into very thin slices; set aside. Add the sliced fish to the coconut milk mixture and stir to coat. Place the napa in the bottom of a banana-leaf boat or in a heat-proof bowl lined with a double thickness of banana leaves. Add the fish mixture. Garnish the top with whole basil leaves and sliced green and red peppers. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons coconut milk. If using a banana-leaf boat, place it in a bowl or on a plate just big enough to hold it. Either way, place the bowl or plate in a steamer over boiling water. Cover and steam gently over medium to medium-low heat 15 to 20 minutes until the custard on top is set, and the fish is cooked through. Do not cook at too high a temperature or the custard will curdle. Serve the banana-leaf boat in a bowl or on a plate or serve the banana-leaf-lined bowl on a plate. Drizzle the top with 1 tablespoon coconut milk before serving. Makes 1 serving. Per serving: 763 calories, 59 percent calories from fat, 50 grams total fat, 39 grams saturated fat, 300 milligrams cholesterol, 29 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams total fiber, 13 grams total sugars, 23 grams net carbs, 57 grams protein, 768 milligrams sodium.
Michael Laughlin / Sun Sentinel