Adapted from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook by Patricia Tanumihardja
Steaming whole fish on a lattice of lemongrass in a clay pot leaves it silky, tender, and imbued with a subtle
citrusy scent. Any white fish with natural fat, such as trout, Pacific cod, or striped bass, would work well in this simple Thai dish from Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen, who learned to make it from her grandmother, Kimsua. Pranee remembers her grandma’s frugal nature: she would only use the discarded outer layers of the lemongrass to line the clay pot for this dish, saving the tender white core for others.
Clay pots are relatively inexpensive and are available in many Asian markets.
You will need a 12- to 14-inch clay pot for this recipe, or you can use a steamer.
¾- to 1-pound whole trout,
head and tail intact,
scaled, gutted, and
4 plump stalks lemongrass, trimmed and bruised
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
½ cup water, or more as needed
Lay the fish flat on a cutting board. To ensure the fish cooks evenly, use a sharp knife to make 3 or 4
diagonal bone-deep cuts in the skin perpendicular to the backbone about 1 inch apart. Turn the fish
over and repeat.
Fold one lemongrass stalk in half and rub it all over the fish, inside and out. Discard. Gently rub the
salt into the skin of the fish and inside its cavity.
Tear each of the 3 remaining lemongrass stalks into 4 strips. Lay the lemongrass strips in a grid-like
pattern on the bottom of the clay pot in 3 layers. Trim the stalks if they don’t fit. Place the fish on top of
the lattice, tucking in the tail if necessary. Add enough water to reach the bottom layer of lemongrass
without touching the fish.
Cover and bring the water to a boil over medium heat. Once steam starts to appear from the hole
in the lid, about 5 minutes, check the water level and add more water if necessary. Steam for another 8
to 10 minutes, or until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily when tested with a fork at its thickest part.
Check on the water level at least once more during steaming.
Serve the fish from the clay pot, or carefully transfer onto a serving plate using two spatulas. Spoon
the liquid over the fish before serving. Serves 2 as part of a multi-course family-style meal.