Snapper Wrapped in Banana Leaves

By Marcus Samuelsson |

A West African classic from The Soul of a New Cuisine. The sweet, rich, coconut-milk broth is exquisite with this tender snapper.



    2 jalapeño chilies, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped

    1 (3-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

    4 garlic cloves, minced

    2 sprigs of cilantro, chopped

    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    3 tablespoons olive oil

    6 (6-ounce) skin-on snapper fillets

    2 - 3 banana leaves, cut into six 8 x 12-inch sheets

    1 lemon, sliced and seeded

    1 tomato, sliced

    1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced

    1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice

    3 cups chicken stock

    1 (15-ounce) can coconut milk

    2 teaspoons salt

    2 cups trimmed morning glory or trimmed spinach

    2 yellow plantains, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices


    Photo by Magalie L’Abbe. Edited from Original.

    Mix the jalapeños, ginger, garlic, cilantro, cayenne pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl. Place 1 snapper fillet skin side up in the center of a banana leaf and brush or spoon one-sixth of the jalapeño mixture over the fish. Place a lemon slice and a tomato slice in the center of the fillet. Fold the sides of the leaf over the fish to make a neat packet, and tie the packet with kitchen string. Repeat with the remaining fillets. Combine the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the onion, rice, chicken stock, coconut milk, and salt in a Dutch oven or other large deep pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Carefully arrange the fish packets and plantains on top of the rice, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid. Transfer the packets to a plate to drain. Stir the morning glory into the rice, cover, and let sit for 3 minutes, or until the leaves are wilted. For a striking presentation, serve the fish still wrapped in the banana leaves for guests to unwrap. For a less dramatic, but less messy option, unwrap the packets and transfer the fish to a platter or individual plates. Serve with the rice and plantains.