Top Shelf: Thai immersion yields tasty results

Feb 7, 2020 by Timothy MacDonald

Top Shelf: by Chef Tim MacDonald

Living life large, like Paul Gauguin, I have based myself in the Bing Lee 3 love shack on the tropical island of Koh Samui. Amid an array of local wildlife whizzing around on Honda Clicks, I have tasted many a Thai sweet-sour and salty dish at many of the night markets.

Every 30 days the Thai government encourages me to “get out,” which has the knock-on effect of creating several options. I can do a damn good impersonation of Martin Sheen’s Capt. Willard in Saigon, or fly to Singapore, Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia or India.

Each trip allows me to immerse myself in the local delights. I have never understood the “cooking class” thingy that I often see requested on social media – preferring instead to saddle up with my own Teha’amana muse and experience the food culture straight up. Paul Gauguin really had the right idea. 

Often bored myself now with the usual grilled, €50-a-kilogram offering – and micro hair cuts – I can thank my time living it large like Gauguin for introducing me to this hawker standard.

The combination of fish, coconut, Thai yellow curry paste and herbs, all wrapped up in a banana leaf like a Gucci handbag, has proven a winner when offered as the ubiquitous seafood fish dinner option.

A kin to Chilean sea bass in its forgiveness when there’s a 10-minute delay in getting it to the table, it makes a great alternative to the normal.

Teha’Amana Fish Pudding


  • 4 cups of diced snow fish from 4 medium filets
  • 4 tablespoons massaman curry paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut milk, chilled
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 1/4 Thai basil
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 bird’s eye chiles, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup coconut cream, for topping
  • 2 tablespoons rice flour
  • Banana leaf baskets, approx. 6


  • Start by making your banana leaf bowl and set up in a steamer.
  • Cut the fish into bite-size chunks.
  • Place 2 cups of the bite-size fish pieces into a blender, along with the massaman curry paste, egg, palm sugar and fish sauce. Blend until a mousse is formed.
  • Add the chilled coconut milk and the majority of the thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves, saving a few for use in the topping.
  • Lay a generous layer of the basil, coriander and Thai basil onto the bottom of each banana leaf wrapper. Divide the remaining fish, add on top of the herbs, then evenly divide the Thai massaman mousse mixture to top.
  • Mix the remaining coconut cream with the rice flour, then garnish the baskets with a dollop, leaving a small amount for garnishing.
  • Steam until a thermometer reads 70 degrees, and garnish with the remaining coconut cream, shredded lime leaves and sliced red chiles.

Tim MacDonald ( has more than 20 years experience as a chef. He was named Concours de Chefs winner for Yachts over 160 feet at the 2011 Antigua Charter Yacht Show. His recipes are designed for the owner and guests. Comments are welcome below.