Fish Grilled in Banana Leaves with Chile-Lime Sauce


For this quick and bold sauce, Zak Pelaccio purees vibrant ingredients like fresh lemongrass and ginger with chiles and fish sauce. The sauce is delicious with any grilled or roasted fish, with or without the banana leaves.

Fish Grilled in Banana Leaves with Chile-Lime Sauce
Photo: © Cedric Angeles
Total Time:
30 mins


  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon palm sugar (see Note) or light brown sugar

  • 4 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, tender inner cores of the bottom third only, chopped

  • 2 medium shallots, sliced

  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

  • 1 fresh long red chile, chopped

  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro

  • Six 6-ounce Spanish, Boston or king mackerel fillets, with skin

  • Vegetable oil, for rubbing

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 6 banana leaves, each cut into a 12-by-10-inch piece (see Note)


  1. In a blender or mini food processor, combine the palm sugar, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, chile and lime juice; pulse to make a slightly coarse puree. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the fish sauce and cilantro.

  2. Light a grill. Score the skin side of each mackerel fillet 3 or 4 times, rub with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place a fillet skin side up in the center of each banana leaf. Fold up each leaf like an envelope to enclose the fish.

  3. Grill the packets over moderately high heat until the fish is barely opaque in the center, about 3 minutes per side. Place a banana leaf packet on each plate and pass the sauce at the table.

Make Ahead

The sauce can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Palm sugar is available at Asian markets and at Frozen banana leaves can be purchased in specialty food stores or at

Suggested Pairing

Juicy, concentrated rosé.

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