Mok Pla Siw – Fish and Herbs Curry Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Mok Pla Siw (หมกปลาซว) is a flavorful and aromatic fish curry that’s wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. It’s a dish that’s rich in taste and texture.
In fact, I’m not sure there is another Thai dish that uses THIS MANY strong and different tastes all in one dish! Read the list of ingredients, it’s a bit awe-inspiring to be honest! How does a meal with this many strong flavors come out delicious? How do they all blend together?
Typically, Mok Pla Siw is made by mixing fish (often catfish or snakehead fish) with a variety of herbs and spices like lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, garlic, and chili paste. This mixture is then folded into banana leaves and steamed, allowing the flavors to join together while the fish absorbs the aromatic essence of the herbs and spices.
To be real here, we use snakehead fish whenever possible, we like it the best and always try to find it first for this dish.
The result is a tender and moist fish that’s infused with the fragrant flavors of the herbs and curry spices. The banana leaves give it a subtle, earthy taste as it steams, enhancing the overall aroma and presentation.
Mok Pla Siw is known and loved for its combination of savory, herbal, and slightly spicy flavors. It’s a dish that shows the diversity and skillful use of Thai herbs and spices in creating a delightful dining experience your friends and loved ones will appreciate!
What About the Taste of Fish and Herbs Curry
The combination of robust ingredients in Mok Pla Siw creates a vibrant and bold flavor profile, but it’s not necessarily overwhelming or too much for most Westerners’ taste.
While it does have strong and aromatic herbs like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves, the cooking process of steaming the fish within the banana leaves helps to infuse the flavors gradually. This method allows the ingredients to meld together, resulting in a harmonious blend of flavors rather than an overpowering sensation.
The flavors are well-balanced, with the spices adding depth without overshadowing the natural taste of the fish. The dish tends to offer a delightful combination of savory, herbal, and slightly spicy notes that complement each other, creating a distinctive but enjoyable taste experience.
While Mok Pla Siw is rich in flavors, it’s crafted in a way that allows each ingredient to contribute to the overall taste without dominating the palate, offering a delicious and well-rounded culinary adventure. Thai food is well known for this, and the reason we have some absolutely stunning Thai food dishes!
Our family loves this one, especially the older people in our family, our uncles and aunts who grew up on this food. Our daughters hardly know this one because I don’t make it much, but my mother and I love it and I make it for us a couple of times per month to make us happy!
Please note – there are many Thai food appetizers, meals, and desserts that are wrapped in banana leaves that you can find at the market. You should ask the person selling what is inside or you might be surprised and get something you don’t want.
BUT, you could be surprised and get something you didn’t know about and find it DELICIOUS! Like Mango Sticky Rice or something! 😛
Prepare Ingredients for Mok Pla Siw
- 2 cups of very small Fish (as small as you can find)
- 5 red Chili Peppers
- 5 dried red Chili Peppers
- 5 cloves Garlic
- 5 red Onions
- 1 handful Basil
- 2 tbsp. Fish Sauce
- 1/4 tsp. Sugar
- 1 tbsp. Minced Galingale
- 1 handful cut Scallion (1 inch long)
- 2 handfuls cut Dill (1 inch long) I like this one so I added a lot
- 1 tbsp. slice Lemongrass
- 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves
- 2 tbsp. Pla Rah (fermented fish sauce)
- Banana Leaves
1. Ground chili peppers, red onions, and garlic all together.
2. Clean the tiny fish very well and put it in a big bowl.
3. Add fish sauce, sugar, pla rah, minced galingale, lemongrass kaffir lime leaves, basil, dill and scallion.
4. Taste it. If you like how it tastes then wrap it in banana leaves. If not, add more Pla Rah. At this step, you don’t have to make an artistic banana wrap. 😛 Haha Just do anything to keep it whole (together). Maybe use a toothpick.
Ah! I forgot you can use foil paper (for food). 🙂 That would make it easier, huh? But banana leaves will give a unique smell though, if you would like to try them.
5. With banana leaves, you can grill them on the fire. With foil paper, cook in the microwave for 5-10 minutes.
6. Another option, add everything in a clay pot. It will also have a distinctive smell.
7. Serve with sticky rice. 🙂
It is Isaan-style food and a farmer’s recipe from my mom. When you work hard on the farm, in the heat, this recipe will increase your appetite. 🙂
Have you ever been offered to eat whole fish by Thai People? Whole fish. I mean the meat, the bones, and the head. 😀 That’s how we eat it. The whole thing, especially a tiny fish would be easy to chew and swallow. I ate like that as well! 🙂 because I am an Isaan girl! Hahaha!