I've been breaking out of my seafood-averse shell and trying out different ways of cooking fish on the grill. Direct grilling and planking have both turned out well, but this latest venture of stuffing a fish and wrapping it up was truly outstanding.
It was for a Vietnamese-inspired cookout menu. I stuffed two fresh black sea bass with lemongrass, cilantro, mint, ginger, and lime, then wrapped the entire thing in a banana leaf and tied it shut with butcher twine.
After a 20-minute cook over medium-high heat, the aroma that came from the banana leaf upon cutting it open was intoxicating. The distinct smells of the herbs and ginger gets your mouth watering, and luckily the fish doesn't disappoint.
The aromatics imparted a faint flavor on the light meat, which was incredibly tender and moist. For one of the first times, I was really enjoying fish just by itself, but I did like it even better with some nuoc cham, which really completed the whole thing.
About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.
- 2 whole fish, about 2lbs each, scaled, gutted, and fins removed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 6 sprigs cilantro
- 6 slices fresh ginger
- 4 sprigs fresh mint
- 4 slices of lime
- 2 banana leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Nuoc Cham
- Type of fire: Direct
- Grill heat: medium-high
Using a sharp pairing knife, cut three slits in the skin on both sides of each fish. Season fish generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Stuff each fish with an equal amount of lemongrass, cilantro, mint, ginger, and lime slices.
Oil one side of banana leaf and place fish on oiled side. Wrap leaf tightly around fish and tie securely with butchers twine. Repeat with second fish.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill fish over medium-high heat until cooked through and flesh flakes, about 10 minutes per side. Remove from grill.
Let fish rest for 5 minutes, cut open banana leaf and serve with nuoc cham.