On the weekend we were invited to a big bush party on a property about an hour out of Darwin. Friends of the people we have been staying with (who have also become our friends), were having a big combined birthday party. As Benny had already made plans for a big fishing trip out to some islands, I headed out on a solo mission.
It ran from Friday to Monday morning for some (myself not included I’m ashamed to admit, even though I was probably one of the youngest there). There was a lot of dancing, long and interesting conversations, awesome sets, wacky costumes (the theme was swamp suave), everyone took amazing dishes to share and the drinks were flowing. Surrounded by bushland, we could have been anywhere.
I was feeling more than worse for ware when I arrived back in Darwin on Sunday, but before going home I dragged myself to the markets to stock up for the week and to also buy some kind of spicy feast to fill my belly. As always, the green papaya salad won out. After eating and swimming all day I started to feel slightly human again and headed back to the house. What a surprise I had waiting for me!
The boys had finally had an amazingly successful fishing trip! Four mud crabs, three huge queen fish and five trevally! Totally amazing! Along with the market goods and the fruit and veg from the garden, we have been eating like Kings and Queens this week!
For this salad, because the banana flower is served raw, it is important that the banana flower is freshly picked. They can become much too bitter to eat when they have been off the plant for more than a day or two.
1 large fresh banana flower, weighing 800g to 1kg
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 tsp salt
1 jicama, weighing 600-800g
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh coconut flesh, grated
2 handfuls fresh coriander leaves
1 handful each fresh thai basil and mint leaves
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tbs tamarind puree
Juice of 1-2 limes
2 tbs palm sugar, grated
2 tbs fish sauce
1 long red chilli, finely chopped
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
1 tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/4 cup coconut cream
Red Spot Emperor Baked in Banana Leaves
1 kg whole Red Spot Emperor, gutted and scaled (you could also use red emperor, rock cod, snapper or trevally)
Banana leaves (or baking paper), for baking
2 cloves garlic
1 birdseye chilli
1 tbs fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
Sliced spring onion, sliced chilli, coriander leaves, thai basil leaves and fresh lime wedges, to serve
Steamed rice or asian style rice cakes, to serve
Line a large baking dish with banana leaves, leaving overhang to wrap the fish. Score the fish along both sides, just enough to let some flavour get in, but not down to the bone.
For the fish marinade,iIn a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, chilli, ginger, lime juice, salt, sugar, fish sauce and sesame oil. Pour this over the fish, rubbing it into the cuts and a little into the cavity. Wrap the fish, finishing seam side down, and leave in the fridge to marinate for 30mins.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.
To prepare the banana flower, remove the dark outer leaves and discard or keep for decoration. Have a large bowl of water with the lime/lemon juice and salt ready. Start removing all of the leaves of the banana flower, discarding the small flowering stems that gather at the base (these are very bitter), and stack the leaves as you go to make them easy to slice up. Thinly slice the leaves widthways, 0.5cm, placing them in the bowl of water as you go. Leave them in the water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Peel and thinly julienne the jicama (a mandolin is ideal). Strain the banana flower, try and remove as much water as you can. In a large bowl combine the jicama, banana flower, spring onions, coconut, coriander, thai basil, mint, and peanuts (reserving some herbs and peanuts for garnish). For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.
Place the fish in the oven and cook for about 40mins. Remove from oven, cut open the banana leaves and place the fish on a serving platter, pour over any cooking juices. Scatter with the spring onion, herbs and chilli and place fresh lime wedges alongside.
Toss the salad dressing through the salad and sprinkle with reserved herbs and peanuts.
Serve with steamed rice or asian rice cakes.