For best results, the size of the fish should be proportional to the widest portion of the Chinese broccoli. You want to wrap the body of the fish in the leaf but you want the head and tail exposed. That allows the coconut milk to seep through the Chinese broccoli to flavor the fish flesh.
You also want to season the fish sufficiently before wrapping them. Cooking time is short and the seasonings in the sauce won’t reach the innermost portion of the fish flesh easily. So, season in stages.
Once generously seasoned, the fish are now ready for wrapping. Two leaves per fish to ensure that the wrapper is thick enough to create an effective barrier between the fish skin and the pan. That barrier will prevent the fish from getting scorched in case the coconut milk dries up before the fish are cooked through.
For even cooking, the Chinese broccoli-wrapped mackerel are arranged in the pan in a single layer. Then, the spices and small pieces of vegetables are spread over them. During cooking, these vegetables will soften and partially liquefy to add flavor to the coconut milk sauce.
The second layer of seasoning in the form of fish sauce goes in before the coconut milk is poured over the fish and vegetables.
Cooking the fish and vegetables over low heat ensures minimal evaporation. It also helps tremendously if you use a lid that fits snugly. The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the fish so take the 20-minute mark as a mere guide.
Full recipe below
Chinese broccoli-wrapped mackerel in coconut milk
- 400 to 500 grams whole fish - scaled and gutted
- 8 large Chinese broccoli - rinsed and patted dry
- 2 shallots - chopped
- 2 tomatoes - diced
- 2 finger chilies - chopped
- 2 bell peppers - diced
- 4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 one-inch knob ginger - peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 cup of coconut milk
- Score the fish on both sides.
- Rub all the fish generously with salt and pepper. Make sure to rub inside the cavities and slashes where you had scored them.
- Double wrap each fish with Chinese broccoli.
- Arrange the wrapped fish in a wide pan, in a single layer.
- Spread all the vegetables and aromatics on top of the fish.
- Drizzle in the fish sauce.
- Pour in the coconut milk.
- Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Use a spatula to lift the fish to individual plates without breaking them or tearing the wrappers.
- Spoon the vegetables and sauce over the fish.
- Best with rice.