This dish pairs meaty white fish, such as pollock or cod, with aromatic red curry paste, coconut cream and herbs to give a delicate steamed curry parcel with a light mousse texture. I personally love the fish version of this dish but I’ve also tried streamed parcels using chicken breast. Traditionally hor mok is steamed in banana leaf parcels, I realise it may be difficult to find banana leaf so filling ramekins and steaming will give the same results.
Red curry paste (for those wanting to make their own paste from scratch)
8 dried long red chilli (deseeded and soaked in cold water until soft)
2 tbsp lemongrass (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 tbsp galangal (peeled and thinly sliced)
2 tbsp shallot (peeled and thinly sliced)
2 tbsp garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 tbsp coriander root or stem
1 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tsp salt
1 tsp shrimp paste (omit if vegan/vegetarian)
Pound all ingredients in a stone pestle and mortar until very smooth, from the top of the ingredients list to the bottom.
Tip: start with the hardest ingredients working up to the softest (or ones with most water content) to ensure a nice smooth paste.
Hor mok pla (serves 2)
2 tbsp red curry paste (shop bought red curry paste is fine)
200g white fish – skinless and bones removed
100g coconut cream (thickest cream from can or carton)
1 tsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 whole egg – beaten
Small handful picked Thai basil leaves
Small handful three cornered leeks / wild garlic – roughly chopped (these are in season right now but if you don’t have access to picking them then I recommend using the green tops of spring onions as a substitute)
3 kaffir lime leaves (finely shred, for garnish)
1 long red chilli (finely shred, for garnish)
Additional thick coconut cream (for garnish)
Banana leaf – cut into 20cm x 20cm square (alternatively use ramekins)
- Cut the white fish into small pieces then add to a food processor or blender with a splash of thick coconut cream, palm sugar, red curry paste and fish sauce.
- Blend together while gradually adding the remaining coconut cream until you achieve a smooth and glossy mixture. Blending will develop the proteins in the fish and will create a light and bouncy texture.
- Gradually incorporate the beaten egg to the fish mixture while continuing to blend. The final mixture should be silky and glossy, with a wobble. Fry a little amount of the mixture in a pan and taste for seasoning, it should be salty, slightly sweet and creamy from the coconut cream. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- If using banana leaf you will need to make the leaf malleable so that it doesn’t tear when being folded, to do this simply pass the leaf squares over an open flame on your cooker. The leaf will change colour slightly when it’s fully malleable and will be flexible to fold.
- Lay a square of banana leaf on your work surface (shiny side down) then lay another on top but with the seam lines running in the opposite direction (again shiny side down). Put a generous amount of Thai basil and wild garlic leaves in the centre of the banana leaf. Next put half of the curry fish mixture on top of the herbs, then add another generous amount of herbs on top so that the curry mixture is partially covered.
- Seal the mixture in the banana leaf by folding up the sides to give a tightly folded rectangle. It should hold together just by turning the seam side down onto a work surface. If you’re struggling to seal the parcels you may have too much mix inside. If you prefer, fix the banana leaf together using a few toothpicks.
- If you’re not using banana leaf then skip steps 4-6 and instead fill the bottom of a ramekin with the herbs, top with the fish mixture and then more herbs. Seal the ramekin with cling film so it’s water tight when you steam the mixture.
- Steam the banana leaf parcels / ramekins over rolling water. I use a bamboo steamer but a metal steamer works fine. Depending on the size of the parcels they will take around 12-15 minutes. Check the cooking by inserting the tip of a sharp knife into the centre of the steamed fish mixture. Leave the knife in for a few seconds before removing, it should be hot to the touch and clean of fish mixture. Steam longer if necessary.
- Serve immediately garnished with a splash of reserved thick coconut cream, finely shred red chilli and kaffir lime leaf. Eat with steamed jasmine rice (and fish bone soup, see below)
Fish bone soup
I made this version of hor mok with monkfish that required taking off the bone. I chopped the bone into 1 inch pieces, rinsed them under cold water and added to a pan with 500ml water. Added the stems from the Thai basil, some coriander stems and a few dried shiitake mushrooms. Simmered for 20 minutes and skimmed as required. Strained the stock, seasoned with a 2 tbsp light soy sauce and returned to a bowl with the monkfish bone pieces, sliced shiitake mushrooms, Thai basil leaves and sliced three cornered leeks. It made for a light soup to accompany the hor mok, plus it’s zero waste!