Aya’s Kitchen: BBQ with Asian Flavours

Since moving to Australia, I’ve been cooking with BBQ grills a lot more often. When I BBQ, I tend to steer away from the typical stuff like sausages and burgers, not because I dislike eating them, but because it’s an opportunity for me to experiment cooking with open flames.

My sister invited some friends over to her place and I happily volunteered to cook for them since they knew about me and my love for food. On a beautiful summer day, there’s nothing better than being able to cook outdoors, so I constructed the menu around the grill. And instead of sticking to one type of cuisine, I decided to have each dish represent a different cuisine from somewhere in Asia.

  1. Summer Salad with Miso Dressing (Japan)
  2. Grilled Chicken Wings a la Satay (Indonesia)
  3. Banana Leaf John Dory (Malaysia)
  4. Broccoli Rabe with Sesame (Japan as well)
  5. Grilled Potato Salad with Curry Leaf & Mint Pesto (India)
  6. Grilled Asado Ribs with Gochujang Sauce/Cilantro Pesto (Korea)

One of my favourites was the banana leaf wrapped John Dory, which I drew inspiration from a Malaysian dish called Otak Otak. Otak Otak is a spiced fish mousse/paste wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. Instead of making a fish paste, I decided to get a whole fish and smear it with similar kinds of spices before wrapping it in banana leaves. I made a spice paste by blending some shallots, red chilies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, soy sauce (you would normally use fish sauce or shrimp paste but not everybody loves that pungent fishiness so I used soy sauce instead) and turmeric in a food processor. I mixed in just enough coconut milk to maintain a thick consistency. This can be done with many different kinds of fish like snapper or Barramundi, but I love grilled John Dory (a recent discovery) so that’s what I went with. I seasoned it generously with salt and pepper, smeared the whole fish with this spice paste, and wrapped it in banana leaves. I used a fish grill basket to hold everything together and threw it on the grill (high heat). It’s OK for the banana leaves to burn a bit as it imparts a beautiful smokey flavour on the fish. It shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes for the fish to cook on each side (though it depends on the size of it ofΒ  course!). This method of cooking grills and steams, which results in a moist yet smokey fish.

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One of my other favourites was the potato salad. I simply grilled some small dutch creamer potatoes until cooked through and tossed them in a pesto that I made with curry leaves (cooked for a minute in some olive oil), mint, and olive oil. I also added some blanched peas to this but if I were to make this again I would omit it because they just get left behind.

A surprising discovery I made on this day was that you don’t have to marinate short ribs for them to be tender. We got some amazing Cape Grim Asado short ribs from Gary’s Butcher (Prahran Market) and they just grilled beautifully with salt and pepper. I cooked them more medium than medium rare, and it was very tender.

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