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How to Make Thai Fish Grilled in Banana Leaves (Aeb)

Aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล) is a dish that's commonly eaten in northern Thailand, and typically served at street food stalls and local markets. While it can be made with catfish, small river fish, or even minced pork, I love it best with tilapia. The tilapia is mixed with chili paste, wrapped into a banana leaf package, and grilled. Aeb (แอ๊บ) is typically eaten along with Thai sticky rice.

Author: Mark Wiens ( Recipe type: Grilled fish Cuisine: Thai food Serves: 6 packets


  • 500 - 600 grams of boneless filleted tilapia fish (I filleted 2 fish, but you could also buy pre-filleted)

  • Banana leaves for wrapping (substitute foil)

  • Toothpicks for fastening

For the chili paste:

  • 2 lemongrass stalks

  • 1 head garlic

  • 5 Thai shallots

  • 10 - 20 dry Thai chilies

  • 3 - 5 fresh Thai bird eye chilies

  • ½ of the peel of a kaffir lime

  • ½ finger of turmeric (in the video I added a full finger, but it was too much)

  • ½ tsp salt

To mix in with the fish:

  • All the chili paste

  • 1.5 tsp salt

To add to each packet:

  • sweet basil

  • lemon basil

  • kaffir lime leaves


  1. Begin preparing the chili paste. Peel the garlic and shallots, and slice off the skin of the kaffir lime. Cut all the chili paste ingredients into small pieces, to make them easier to grind in a stone mortar and pestle.

  2. In a stone mortar, first add ½ tsp of salt, then begin pounding the Thai dry chilies until you have chili flakes. Then add the fresh chilies, and keep on pounding. Next add the rest of the ingredients and keep pounding for about 15 minutes. You don't need it to be smooth like a Thai curry paste, but you're just looking for a coarse chunky chili paste. You could alternatively use a food processor or blender.

  3. If you use whole fish, like I did, fillet the fish by slicing the meat off both sides. Then cut the fish into medium sized pieces, about ½ the size of a deck of cards.

  4. In a mixing bowl, add the boneless fish (skin still on is best), add the pounded chili paste, and season with salt. Mix thoroughly so all the fish is coated with chili paste.

For wrapping in banana leaves, if you have some time to read, that would be best - so you can see exactly how to do it.

  1. Tear or cut the banana leaf into 30 - 40 cm (1 foot or a little more) pieces. Prepare about 12 pieces.

  2. Banana leaves have a strong side and a fragile side - keep this in mind. Take two of the banana leaf pieces, with the white dull side up (green shiny side down), and give the leaves a quick wipe with a wet cloth. Place one leaf down, then layer another on top of it, but turn it 180 degrees. So there should be a strong edge on one side, and a fragile edge on one side, but two leaves opposite of each other - one strong and one fragile side together.

  3. Place a handful of fresh lemon basil and Thai sweet basil in the center of the leaf, then top with a couple pieces of fish and chili paste. Then tear a couple of kaffir lime leaves, and add them to the top of the fish.

  4. To wrap it up, fold in one side, then the other side, then pull in the long ends, and fasten them at the top of the packet with a toothpick. It should be square or rectangular package.

  5. On medium heat, grill each packet of aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล) for about 15 minutes, flipping occasionally. The outside banana leaf wrapper will blister and blacken, but the fish inside will remain protected and absolutely delicious.

Notes Aeb pla nin (แอ๊บปลานิล) is best if it's eaten right off the grill, so it's fresh and piping hot. In northern Thailand, aeb (แอ๊บ) is usually consumed with sticky rice. Hope you enjoyed this recipe.

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