Delicately Spiced Turbot Fillets Wrapped in Chinese Leaves


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • makes



Appears in

New Wave Asian: A Guide to the Southeast Asian Food Revolution

New Wave Asian

By Sri Owen

Published 2002

  • About

This is a dish for special people – I like to make it just for two, or at most four. You need all your time and concentration to balance the aromatics and the hot spices, and to get just the right degree of sweetness and sourness in the sauce. Above all, do not overcook the fish. Steaming is a much faster method of cooking than (say) grilling, so you have less margin for error. Wrappings for the steaming of fish vary from country to country, giving subtly different finishes. I think my very untraditional use of orange juice in the marinade helps bring out the flavour of the fish.


  • 2 turbot fillets, each weighing about 175–225 g/ 6–8 oz
  • 4 Chinese white cabbage leaves

For the Marinade

  • juice of 2 oranges
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp finely chopped lemon grass
  • 1 tsp caster sugar

For the Sauce

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 115 ml/ 4 fl oz coconut milk or plain yoghurt
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley or coriander leaves


Well ahead, make the marinade by mixing all the ingredients in a glass bowl and marinate the fish in it for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

At the end of this time, take the fish out of the marinade and set aside. Reserve the marinade.

Make the sauce: heat the oil in a saucepan and stir-fry the shallots, garlic and ginger until they are all soft (about 3 minutes). Add the reserved marinade, the nutmeg and the coconut milk or yoghurt, and simmer until the sauce is reduced by half. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

When ready to serve, blanch the Chinese cabbage leaves in boiling water for 20 seconds and refresh in cold water. Lay the leaves on a flat surface and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Lay 2 leaves side by side, overlapping them a little. On top of them, near one edge, lay a fish fillet coated with as much marinade as you can. Fold the leaves away from you to wrap the fish and place this parcel either on a plate that will fit inside your steamer or on a trivet in a wok. Do the same with the other fillet and steam the parcels for 5-6 minutes.

Just before serving, reheat the sauce in the saucepan and add the chives and the parsley or coriander leaves. Place the fish parcels on a serving dish and pour the sauce over them. Serve hot. Steamed sweet potatoes are particularly good with this dish, together with, of course, a well-dressed salad.