River fish steam boat

River fish steam boat

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

I spent the day with a local family who catch small freshwater fish to make padek, the Lao fish sauce. Boys young and old would spend hours in the freezing waters, throwing their nets out, then diving on top to trap the fish. They would place the fish in large buckets for the girls, as young as six, to debone and fillet! When they finished, the family would build a fire right on the water’s edge and cook up this steamboat. This is such a wonderful dish as it brings family and friends together. Everyone has great fun preparing and cooking their own. When buying young coconut juice, try to source juice from fresh green coconuts — the tinned juice has too much added sugar.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 red asian shallots, finely sliced
1cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
500g whole white-fleshed fish such as snapper, cut into fillets and finely sliced, reserving the bones for the broth
1 tablespoon unsalted roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 litre young coconut juice
1 lemongrass stem, bruised
1 lime, juiced
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 butter lettuce leaves
7 chinese cabbage leaves, finely sliced
1 large handful mint leaves
4 spring onions, cut into 3 cm lengths
1 large handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 large handful water spinach, torn into 3 cm lengths


  1. Start by making the broth. Add the vegetable oil to a hot wok, then sauté the onion, garlic, shallot and ginger until browned. Stir in the tamarind pulp and chilli flakes. Now add the reserved fish bones and toss to coat them well.
  2. Add the peanuts, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, coconut juice, lemongrass, lime juice, half the beaten egg and a pinch of sea salt. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. On a separate plate, mix the sliced fish fillets with the pepper and the remaining egg.
  4. Now take one lettuce leaf and place a little cabbage, mint, spring onion, coriander, water spinach and a few fish slices on top. Wrap the lettuce up around the filling, then secure the ends with a bamboo skewer.
  5. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, securing each parcel with a bamboo skewer.
  6. Cook the fish parcels in the simmering broth for 1 minute, then enjoy straight away.
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