Dinner/ Recipes/ Side Dish

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa)

09/12/2015 (Last Updated: 31/10/2019)

Bring the exotic flavours of Laos to your table with this zesty Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa). Wrapped in a banana leaf and infused with essential Lao ingredients, this scrumptious steamed fish looks amazing and is sure to be a hit with friends and family.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

So… We’d fully intended to have this post up yesterday, but a home cooked feast and generous pourings of rice wine from our new hosts in the mountainous city of Da Lat, Vietnam, made for an amusing change to our plans.

Honestly, how could we refuse those steaming bowls of Vietnamese chicken, noodles and grilled pork, washed down with tiny glasses of rice wine and enthusiastic calls of ‘Mot Hai Ba Yoooo!‘, Vietnam’s beloved phrase for ‘Cheers!’.

Speaking of Vietnamese Cuisine, check out our free ebook Vietnam. Discover. Cook. Eat. Packed with tasty Vietnamese favourites and exclusive ebook only recipes. Subscribe for your copy plus more great recipes and stories. 

Travelling is a whirlwind of adventure and chaos, but no matter where you go, it’s incredible how people are so willing to welcome you into their world.

Just like when we learned this recipe for Mok Pa, aka Lao Steamed Fish, with our new friend Vanpeng in Laos’ capital city of Vientiane.

Within minutes of arriving at her home we were talking and laughing just like old friends catching up for a family meal.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa)

We donned our stylish aprons and set to work to prepare our Lao Steamed Fish, chopping up galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, onion and chilli.

The smell of the fresh herbs alone was enough to set our mouths watering. These we mixed in with the white fish along with sticky rice powder and Lao fish sauce (aka padaek).

Bursting fresh from the banana leaf, this flavour infused fish is melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Click To Tweet

 

Padaek is a very strong smelling fermented fish paste that, on first impression, might singe a few nose hairs. But Lao cuisine wouldn’t be the same without it. Padaek provides that unique umami flavour (similar to miso paste in Japanese cuisine).

Thankfully once it’s cooked you can hardly taste the ‘fishiness’ at all.

If you aren’t able to find padaek at your local Asian grocery, you can substitute with regular fish sauce or anchovy paste.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

With all those zingy Lao flavours added to our fish, all that remained was to wrap it up in the banana leaves. We set out two layers of banana leaf, with the outer layer placed ‘horizontally’ (according to the leaf grain) and the inner placed ‘vertically’.

This not only looks good but helps to lock in all those delicious flavours.

To fold up the parcels, pull together the top and bottom of the leaves, then fold in the sides, add a long strip on the outside and pin together in a triangular shape as you can see in our simple step-by-step guide below.

Don’t worry if you can’t find banana leaves though, you can easily substitute with cooking paper or aluminium foil.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

Mok Pa is traditionally made with fresh-water fish fillets from the Mekong River in the land-locked country of Laos, but we think any white-fleshed fish fillets will work just fine. We might even try this with some freshly caught King George Whiting when we get back home.

It’s also perfect for people who don’t like strong tasting fish. Bathed in all those amazing Lao flavours, what you get is a creamy dish in both flavour and texture.

Our parcels of deliciousness were packed into a steamer to cook for about thirty minutes. Vanpeng told us to watch out for when the bright green banana leaf parcels softened and changed to a dark brown colour. Once that happened they were perfectly cooked and ready to eat.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

One taste of that Lao Steamed Fish and we were in heaven. It’s something about that mix of flavour, that zingy lemongrass, chilli and onion freshened up with hits of fresh dill and kaffir lime leaf. The texture was great as well with the addition of the sticky rice powder, blending and binding the fish with all those incredible flavours. So good.

Vanpeng showed us the proper way to eat like a true Lao by tearing off a little ball of sticky rice and using it to scoop up some of the steamed fish. Sticky rice is probably the most important food in Laos. Not only do they eat it with almost everything, but they use it as their ‘cutlery’ as well!

Do you like fish? Or seafood in general? Tried this kind of recipe before? Let us know in the comments below.

And if you need more Lao food love be sure to grab your frypan and whip up this Simple Lao Omelette.

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa) Recipe - Bursting from the banana leaf, these easy South East Asian flavour infused (hello, lemongrass!) steamed fish parcels are melt-in-your-mouth goodness. Gluten free. | wandercooks.com

Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa)

Bring the exotic flavours of Laos to your table with this zesty Lao Steamed Fish (Mok Pa). Wrapped in a banana leaf and infused with essential Lao ingredients, this scrumptious steamed fish looks amazing and is sure to be a hit with friends and family.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Lao
Author: Wandercooks

Ingredients

  • 200 g white fish diced
  • 5 cm lemongrass sliced and chopped
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves finely sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2 small Thai onions or shallots chopped
  • 1 cm fresh galangal chopped
  • 1 birds eye chilli
  • 1 tsp sticky rice powder or glutinous rice flour
  • 1 tbsp padaek Lao fish sauce (substitutes: normal fish sauce or anchovy paste)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup dill chopped
  • 1-2 spring onions chopped
  • Handful Thai basil leaves
  • 8 sheets banana leaf or baking paper

Instructions

  • Place the chopped lemongrass, lime leaf, garlic, onions, galangal, and chilli in a mortar and pestle and crush into a smooth paste.
  • Meanwhile, place fish into a mixing bowl. Add the herb paste, sticky rice powder, padaek (or fish sauce) and egg. Mix well.
  • Add the dill, spring onion and basil. Continue to mix until well combined.
  • Lay out two square pieces of banana leaf per fish parcel (outer sheet horizontal, inner vertical).
  • Place a ladle full of fish in the centre of the banana leaf wrapper. Fold up into a parcel and pin with toothpicks. Place into a steamer.
  • Cover and steam for 30 mins.
  • Serve with steamed sticky rice.
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    krish recipes
    21/04/2016 at 2:20 am

    Loved the banana leaf wraps. Looks great and delicious

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      21/04/2016 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks Krish, they make it just that extra bit of special don’t they?

  • Reply
    Heather
    19/04/2016 at 12:10 pm

    Love this recipe! This is a dish I don’t get to treat myself to often but now I can make it at home!! Excellent wrapping tutorial too 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/04/2016 at 12:45 pm

      Glad to help Heather! Pictures definitely say 1000 words when it comes to wrapping up instructions hehe. Hope you get to treat yourself soon!

  • Reply
    Trish
    19/04/2016 at 11:51 am

    Ooooh this sounds so light and delicious! Nicely done!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/04/2016 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks Trish, you’re spot on there. The fish was so light and delicious, full of flavour and impossible to stop eating with sticky rice. 😀

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    18/04/2016 at 10:09 pm

    What an interesting way to prepare fish. Too bad I don’t have access to those leaves here. Nicely done.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/04/2016 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks Gloria. Fingers crossed you can find them somewhere. We’ve managed to source some in the freezer section at our Asian grocery!

  • Reply
    Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy
    18/04/2016 at 8:18 pm

    We had something very similar when we were in Thailand and it was amazing. I can almost smell it now!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      18/04/2016 at 8:25 pm

      Yes! The Thai one is very popular, we had no idea Laos had a version as well. Did you make it as well or just eat the deliciousness? Haha

  • Reply
    Padaek
    16/12/2015 at 12:53 pm

    A wonderful and classic Lao recipe. It looks absolutely saap! Thank you for sharing. I’ve shared the post on my Facebook page. Merry Christmas and safe travels. 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      16/12/2015 at 7:18 pm

      Hey thanks so much, glad you like it. This one was definitely one of our favourites from Laos. Merry Christmas to you too, hope you enjoy this wonderful time of year 🙂

  • Reply
    Martin @ The Why Chef
    10/12/2015 at 7:11 pm

    This looks great, and healthy! Just need to find somewhere in the UK selling the banana leaves and glutinous rice flour (probably ebay!) Cheers!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      10/12/2015 at 7:52 pm

      Glad you like the recipe Martin! If you have any Asian supermarkets nearby give them a try – the banana leaves can often be found in the freezer section. You can also use baking paper as an alternative. 🙂

      • Reply
        Martin @ The Why Chef
        10/12/2015 at 8:58 pm

        Ah didn’t even realise they could be frozen! I’ll give that a look later today! The banana leaves really add to the theatre of it, so I’m keen to get these. Thanks again!

        • Reply
          Wandercooks
          10/12/2015 at 9:37 pm

          Totally agree, they look amazing! We found the banana leaves in the freezer section when we went looking for pandan leaves one day haha. Have fun! 🙂

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