LISTEN: Yia Vang joins Jesse Sparks to talk about this recipe on The One Recipe.

Chef Yia Vang of Union Hmong Kitchen in Minneapolis brings us his One, a recipe for a whole fish wrapped in banana leaves. This is a full-hearted family recipe as Yia, who grew up in Northern Wisconsin, spent hours fishing off the dock with his father. The recipe is simple. Based on quality ingredients with a gentle and aromatic method of steaming, you can use with any seafood. There’s nothing more impressive than unveiling this banana leaf-wrapped fish to company and serving it with his flavor-packed sauce, a squeeze of lime, and handfuls of fresh herbs.

Time: 15 minutes prep, 25 minutes cooking, 40 minutes total

Serves: 2-4


  • 1 Whole Branzino or other whole white fish, cleaned, head and tail intact

  • 1 Banana leaf, thawed if frozen

  • Salt

  • 1-2 lemongrass stalks, bruised

  • 1 small 1- 1.5 inch of ginger, bruised

  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed


  •  ¼ cup lemongrass, finely chopped

  •  2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped

  •  2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped

  •  ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoons fish sauce

  • ¼ cup oyster sauce 

For Serving:

  • Lime wedges

  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped, optional

  • 1 watermelon radish sliced thinly, optional

  • Small handful mint, optional 

  • Small handful cilantro, optional

  • Purple sticky rice


Preheat grill or oven to 425. Score the outside of the fish every 1.5 inches in a diagonal pattern, making sure not to go all the way through. There should be about 4 or 5 score marks. Season with salt, making sure to get some in the score marks. Open the fish up, and place the lemongrass, ginger, garlic. Wrap the banana leaves tightly around the fish. Grill or roast the branzino in the leaves for 25-35 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. If roasting in the oven, make sure to place the wrapped fish on a wire rack on top of a sheet tray to prevent juices from accumulating around fish. Leave the branzino in the banana leaves while you prepare the sauce.  

In a small sauté pan, heat canola oil over medium high heat. Add the lemongrass, ginger, and garlic until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 60 seconds. Turn off the heat, allowing oil to infuse with flavor, and add the scallion. Stir in the fish sauce and oyster sauce.  

Open the banana leaves, exposing the fish. Drizzle with sauce, and a hefty squeeze of lime juice. Add roasted peanuts, radish, and herbs if desired. Serve with sticky purple rice.