"When we ate whole fish my mum would always leave the meaty bits for me and take the head for herself, which I thought at the time was a loving sacrifice. But now I know the head holds the sweetest and most tender bits," says Palisa Anderson. "I imagine this to be the secret self-care baton that mothers pass on to each other through the ages."
- 1 kg whole snapper, cleaned and scaled, skin scored
- 3 lemongrass stalks, 2 lightly pounded with a pestle and knotted together
- 7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 coriander roots, finely chopped
- 10 red and green scud chillies
- 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) lime juice
- 2 tbsp finely grated palm sugar
- Chopped coriander leaves, finger limes, lime slices and steamed rice, to serve
- 1Pat snapper dry with paper towel and season with salt flakes. Place on a wire rack over a tray and stand at room temperature for 1 hour to dry. When ready, stuff knotted lemongrass into the cavity and insert the remaining stalk through mouth and into its cavity.
- 2Place garlic, coriander roots and chillies in a large mortar and pestle with 1 tsp salt flakes and pound to a rough paste. Add palm sugar and pound until well incorporated. Add fish sauce and lime juice and season to taste.
- 3Heat a large wok half full with water over high heat. When boiling, place a large bamboo steamer over the top with a lid. Place snapper on a plate that fits inside steamer. Steam fish until cooked (20-25 minutes); rest for 5 minutes.
- 4Remove plate from steamer and wipe off excess water. Spoon over paste, scatter with chopped coriander leaves, finger limes and lime slices and serve with rice to the side.