A story of Experiment, Failure and Relative Success: Barbecue Fish in Banana Leaves

Not every experiment can succeed but also not every failure is bad.

Since we watched salt, acid, fat and heat, we wanted to try barbecuing something in banana leaves. Last week we went shopping in an Asian store for the gyozas and we were very happy to find banana leaves! And when we found some fish yesterday it was a done deal.

However there was one thing that we did not think, it’s winter and no one is selling charcoal! And we were out of it (at least we thought we were, a bit too late we found some hidden in our storagei but anyway). We decided to make a wood fire in the barbecue, then when the wood become embers use it as coal. Then we thought better and for not loosing time, we decided to make a fire in the cheminee, then when the wood becomes ember, transfer it to the barbecue. My part was to set the fire before Alp arrives home.

So I built a monsterous fire and prepared the embers, but Alp was half an hour later than he said he would come, and most of the embers became ash. We said ok, let’s do it fast! Embers don’t smoke so we brought the barbecue inside, we scooped the embers.

Of course whole flore had tiny ash/ember pieces but the tiles are used to that! We carried the barbecue to back to the garden. You know, it may smoke at any point, we don’t want to deal with the fire alarm. There was one piece of wood left which was not entirely ember yet. The embers outside didn’t seem to be enough so we decided to carry it with tongs. Of course it wasn’t entirely wood, but half ember so while carrying it broke, and this time fell on the wooden floors! Alp took the bigger pieces with the tongs and I found the heat resistent gloves and put the fire out. Believe it or not there is not even a small mark on the wooden floor! Anyway.

By the way, we have a tray used for barbecuing. We tried finding it with no result. But I had trusted finding it so I had alredy sliced the onions, garlic, chillies and had bought cherry tomatoes… Anyway we found an aluminium drip tray and  used that. We oiled and tossed the tray on the barbecue. However the embers weren’t much at all and we were afraid to burn them all before the fish so we decided to cook the veggies in the cheminee. We also thought that could give a great smoky taste.

It was going great but we were watching it like hawks. There was oil inside and a big, open fire. And of course after a few minutes we saw a small blue fire on one corner. We took it out, blew like a candle and it was out. (Don’t worry, we had our fire extinguisher in reach!) Anyway we thought that cooking should be enough.

One detail about the food, the fish was a simple white fish but it was a wild fish. We decided to keep the fish simple in taste as we planned to marinate and cook with vegetables. I cured the fish with sumac, orange juice and espelette pepper for about an hour.

We set the banana leaves in a double sided fish grill, wrapped the fish and veggies with it and put it all on the embers. However the lock of the grill was not very well placed because of one rogue banana leaf, and while trying to flip, it was open and our baby in banana leaves fell on the ember!

Alp ran inside to find tongs. Luckily the banana leaves survived a bit, and saved most of the food inside. We said goodbye to the fallen onion and tomatoes with the cover of the barbecue, and brought everything that is left inside. We finished cooking in the pan and ate them standing before the pan!

I couldn’t taste the fish, and that is a good thing for me! There was a strong smoked flavour, which is also good. Sumac, chilli and veggies gave a great aroma. Even though it was a disasterous effort, it ended up being a nice meal, and we took our notes for the second round!

Here is the last product:

 

Summary recipe:

Cure some white fish with sumac (a sour spice from Turkey), orange juice, red chilli pepper, salt and pepper for about an hour. Grill tomatoes, onions, garlic and chillies. Wrap them all with banana leaves. Grill in a double sided fish grill.

 

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