Chef's Recipes

Hor mok

Unwrap this steamed fish curry, and you'll be hit with the irresitible fragrance of banana leaves, coconut and spices.

  • 1 hr preparation
  • 25 mins cooking
  • Serves 6 - 8
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"There are so many variations and names for hor mok across different regions in Thailand," says Anderson. "In the north-eastern region of Isaan they call it mok pla and it has the addition of dill. In the northern regions of Chiang Mai, a rustic version with river fish and so many more herbs and wild greens is called ap (the northern versions also tend not to include coconut milk). The common denominator is that it is usually wrapped in banana leaves – a tradition carried over from the days when plastic wasn't available. I love the banana leaves – they impart a special fragrance through the steaming process that to me smells of nostalgia. This version is one we make from time to time at our Chat Thai kiosk at The Galeries in Sydney to appease our Thai diners (who can't help but order it when they see it). When we do make it, it's the first thing to sell out. If you happen to have a noni fruit tree in your backyard, use noni leaves in place of shredded cabbage." You'll need toothpicks or skewers to secure the banana leaves.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg banana leaves, cleaned (see note)
  • 200 gm white cabbage, finely shredded
  • 12 thinly sliced or whole small long red chillies
  • 2½ cups (loosely packed) Thai basil
  • 2 tbsp warmed coconut cream, and shredded makrut lime leaves, to serve
Hor mok paste
  • 500 gm skinless firm white fish, such as cobia, kingfish or snapper
  • 20 dried long red chillies, coarsely cut with scissors, soaked (10 minutes), drained
  • 5 gm (1cm piece) galangal, thinly sliced
  • Peeled zest of 1 small makrut lime, coarsely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 coriander roots, coarsely chopped
  • 4-5 red shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 2½ tbsp wild ginger (see note), coarsely chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soft palm sugar
  • 250 ml (1 cup) coconut cream

Method

  • 1
    For hor mok paste, cut 300gm fish into 14 pieces and refrigerate until required. Blend remaining fish in a food processor to a coarse paste. Pound chillies, followed by galangal, zest, garlic, coriander, shallots, ginger and 2 tsp salt to a very fine paste with a mortar and pestle. Combine with fish paste in a large bowl, add egg, fish sauce and palm sugar and enough coconut cream to bind and mix with your hands until well combined.
  • 2
    Gently mix fish pieces into paste (taking care not to break the pieces).
  • 3
    Cut banana leaves into 28 roughly 20cm pieces. Place two pieces of banana leaf in your hand and top with 1 tbsp cabbage and 3 tbsp fish paste (including a piece of fish). Arrange pieces of chilli and 5 basil leaves on top. Leaving room around the edges to expand during cooking, fold sides of leaf to enclose, and secure with toothpicks. Repeat until all paste has been used.
  • 4
    In batches if necessary, place parcels in a bamboo steamer basket over a saucepan or wok of boiling water. Reduce heat to medium and steam until parcels are firm (20-25 minutes).
  • 5
    To serve, open the top of the parcels, drizzle with coconut cream and top with lime leaves.

Notes

Banana leaves are available from Asian grocers – look for Ducasse leaves, which are softer and less likely to break. Wild ginger, also known as krachai or Chinese keys, is available from Thai grocers.
*Drink suggestion: Refreshing cold pilsner-style lager. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.