Grilled Fish Cakes in Banana Leaf

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My Rendang isn't Crispy

My Rendang isn't Crispy

By Zaleha Kadir Olpin

Published 2019

  • About

The literal translation of the name of this dish is brain-brain. Apparently, it was so-named because of its resemblance to brains! This spicy, fragrant snack is a common street food in Malaysia. This is my family’s recipe which has been modified to suit our preferences.


  • 300 g (11 oz) fish fillet (use Spanish mackerel, if available)
  • Banana leaves, as needed
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 6 Tbsp coconut milk
  • 45 g ( oz) desiccated coconut

Spice Paste

  • 1 Tbsp dried chilli paste
  • 3 shallots, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped
  • 1 candlenut (optional)
  • 1-cm (½-inch) knob galangal, peeled


  • Cut the fish into 10 pieces, each about 8 x 3-cm (3 x 1-inch). Set aside. Cut the banana leaves to get 10 rectangles, each about 25 x 15-cm (10 x 6-inch). Soak in boiling water for 3 minutes. This will soften them and make them pliable. Wipe dry and set aside.
  • Place the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender and process until fine. Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and fry until the oil separates. Add the kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, salt, sugar, egg, cornflour, coconut milk and desiccated coconut and mix well. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
  • Place 1 tsp spice mixture on a banana leaf. Top with a piece of fish and cover with another 1 tsp spice mixture. Fold the long sides of the leaf over to enclose the filling, then fold the open ends under to create a neat parcel. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  • Place the parcels on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.