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Hor Mok Pla Recipe (Thai Steamed Fish Curry)

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Hor mok pla recipe, a Thai steamed fish curry with a soft-custard-like texture. This treat has just the right amount of spice, and lots of incredible flavors, topped with creamy coconut milk, fragrant kaffir lime leaves, and chilies. It’s a unique dish that’s an absolute MUST-TRY, and it’s way easier than it looks, promise!

Traditional Thai hor mok pla served in banana leaf bowls, topped with red chili, kaffir lime and coconut cream, ready to be enjoyed with steamed jasmine rice.

Head over heals for that irresistible fish and red curry paste combo? Combine these with my tod mun pla recipe for an Thai fish meal the whole family will love.

What is hor mok pla

Hor mok pla is a Thai steamed fish curry with a soft, custard-like mixture of red curry paste, coconut milk, and kaffir lime leaves. This dish offers a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, and aromatic.


“Hor mok” refers to steaming in banana leaves, and “pla” is Thai for fish. This easy recipe is also known as haw mok fish or ห่อหมกปลา in Thai.

Thai fish custard recipe

This Thai fish custard completely reinvents the traditional custard, blending soft fish with a creamy, spiced-up custard. Talk about comfort food!

A close-up of a spoonful of Thai steamed fish curry, showcasing the thick, creamy texture of the custard-like consistency.

And when I say easy, I mean it. I know it looks like I’ve spent hours in the kitchen, but I swear this Thai fish recipe is so easy.

The first time I made it, I couldn’t believe how simple it was!

The food processor does all the work here – throw in the fish and blend it until it’s perfectly smooth. Then, combine this mixture with the remaining ingredients.

Hor mok pla in steaming pot with coconut cream and red chilies.

And then, you simply spoon this mixture into cabbage-filled banana leaf bowls, steam, AND THAT’S IT.

It’s genius, right?!

Why try this recipe

  • Healthy and nutritious: Fish is packed with protein and essential nutrients. Red curry paste is full of healthy herbs and spices.
  • They look amazing: Ain’t they the prettiest things you’ve ever seen? Perfect for impressing your other half.
  • It’s incredibly easy: Have I mentioned how EASY this recipe is?! This hor mok recipe is perfect for any home cook.
  • Authentic: Steaming in banana leaves, it doesn’t get any more Thai than that!
  • Versatile: They’re so good – I could have them for breakfast, for snacking, as a side, and why not serve them up as an appetizer for your next party?
  • Unique: Ever seen Thai steamed fish curry on the menus of a Thai restaurant? Not me! Spotted them at street food markets? Nope!
  • It’s just plain delicious: The incredible taste of hor mok steamed fish is the best reason to give this recipe a try.

Thai red curry paste

There’s really nothing like whipping up your own Thai red curry paste. When you try my recipe, you’ll see how it totally changes the flavor of dishes like this hor mok steamed fish.

A clay cup with Thai red curry paste surrounded by herbs and spices.

Picking out fresh ingredients yourself, then smashing them into your very own paste with a mortar and pestle – there’s just something magical to it. And the flavor of homemade is something that store-bought pastes can’t compete with.

Once you’ve got your paste ready, don’t forget to use it in my Thai red curry fish and authentic Thai red curry recipe.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.


Top-view of ingredients for hok mok pla: fish, coconut milk, egg, Chinese cabbage, palm sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, chilies, rice flour, and red curry paste.
  • Fish – Hor mok pla can be made with a variety of fish: pangasius, cod, salmon, tilapia, snapper, mackerel, sea bass, and more. Additionally, you can use other seafood such as crab, prawn/shrimp. I opted for pangasius fillet for its mild flavor and soft texture.
  • Red curry paste – Use my homemade Thai red curry paste or if you’re pressed for time store-bought brands like Mae Ploy or Maesri can be a good alternative.
  • Coconut milk – Coconut milk brings a creamy, rich foundation to the fish custard, infusing it with a gentle sweetness. We’ll also drizzle a bit more on top of the steamed hor mok plaa for extra deliciousness.
  • Rice flour – For cooking with the coconut milk, turning it into a thick sauce.
  • Egg – Binds the ingredients together in a custard-like consistency.
  • Palm sugar – A bit of palm sugar adds a caramel-like sweetness that balances the spicy and savory notes.
  • Fish sauce – The staple in Thai cuisine that brings umami and enhances the flavors of our food.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – We’ll sprinkle some of these fragrant leaves on top for a fresh flavor and aroma, but most of the kaffir lime leaves are for mixing.
  • Chinese cabbage – The steamed fish is placed atop a bed of Chinese cabbage for a mild, sweet flavor and an added crunchy texture.
  • Chilies – Slices of chilies are sprinkled on top of the hor mok for a pop of color and flavor boost.

Cooking instructions

I experimented with steaming the custard in hollowed-out coconuts. It tasted best when steamed in traditional banana leaves, so I suggest sticking with this traditional method. If you don’t have access to banana leaves, you can use coconut shells or ramekin dishes.

Shape the banana leaf bowls

Crafting a banana leaf bowl by cutting into 5-6 inch circles and layering for hor mok pla steaming.

1. Cut the banana leaf into circles with a diameter of 5–6 inches, or approximately the size of your palm. Layer 2 circles on top of each other to create a sturdy base for your bowl.

2. Fold the edges of the leaves upward.

3.
Keep the shape intact with staples or by threading small bamboo skewers or toothpicks through the leaves where they overlap.

4. Repeat and prepare all your banana leaf bowls.

Prepare the fish custard

Sequential steps showing the blending of fish into a paste and the mixing of red curry paste and coconut milk.

1. Blend the fish into a smooth consistency with a food processor.

2. Transfer the mixed fish to a large mixing bowl and use your hand to knead in the red curry paste, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, palm sugar, and egg.

3. Lastly, add the coconut milk and thoroughly combine the mixture into a smooth consistency.

Steam hor mok pla

Hor mok pla steaming process.

1. Place shredded cabbage on the bottom of your banana leaf bowls. Alternatively, you can use ramekin dishes or a hollowed out coconut shell.

2. Spoon a generous layer of your fish custard atop the cabbage.

3. Place your bowls in a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes, or until it puffs up and is slightly firm / jelly-like.

Heat coconut milk

1. Mix rice flour with coconut milk in a mixing bowl.

2. Heat in a sauce pan over low-medium heat, stirring until thickened.

Serve

When the custard is done, spoon some of the thickened coconut milk on top of it and garnish with strips of kaffir lime leaves and sliced chilies. Serve with jasmine rice.

Kitchen tools

  • Banana leaves for wrapping and steaming. You’ll need a pair of scissors and toothpicks or staples to create banana bowls. Alternatively, you can use ramekin dishes.
  • Mortar and pestle for making the red curry paste from scratch.
  • Cutting board & chef’s knife for slicing the ingredients.
  • Measuring spoons & cups for weighing out seasonings.
  • Food processor for blending all ingredients.
  • Steaming pot for cooking the fish custard.

How to serve fish in banana leaves

Thai hor mok is best served straight from the steamer. Pair with steamed jasmine rice, which goes perfect with the spicy flavors of the custard.

Garnish with slices of red chili and a sprinkle of kaffir lime leaf strips.

How to store and reheat

If you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for up to two days. Keep them in an airtight container.

Reheating instructions: Reheat in your steamer for several minutes until it’s thoroughly warmed. Avoid the microwave.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use something other than banana leaves for steaming?

I’ve tried using hollowed-out coconuts, but the best texture was with banana leaves. Alternatively, you can use ramekin dishes.

How spicy is this recipe?

This recipe is mild to moderately spicy. The spice level depends on the red curry paste used. Make your own, and you can adjust the number of chilies to your taste.

More authentic Thai curry recipes you’ll love

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Hor Mok Pla Recipe (Thai Steamed Fish Curry)

Traditional Thai hor mok pla served in banana leaf bowls, topped with red chili, kaffir lime and coconut cream, ready to be enjoyed with steamed jasmine rice.
Serve hor mok pla with a portion of steamed jasmine rice to temper the heat.
Praew
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Serving Size 4 people

Ingredients

  • 14.1 ounces fish see notes
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 6.8 fluid ounces coconut milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • 3.5 ounces Chinese cabbage thinly chopped
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves see notes
  • 3 chilies thinly chopped, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon rice flour
  • 3.4 fluid ounces coconut milk for topping

Instructions

SHAPE THE BANANA LEAF BOWLS

  • Cut the banana leaf into circles with a diameter of 5–6 inches, or approximately the size of your palm. Layer 2 circles on top of each other to create a sturdy base for your bowl.
  • Fold the edges of the leaves upward.
  • Keep the shape intact with staples or by threading small bamboo skewers or toothpicks through the leaves where they overlap.
  • Repeat and prepare all your banana leaf bowls.

PREPARE THE FISH CUSTARD

  • Blend the fish into a smooth consistency with a food processor.
  • Transfer the mixed fish to a large mixing bowl and use your hand to knead in the red curry paste, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, palm sugar, and egg.
  • Lastly, add the coconut milk and thoroughly combine the mixture into a smooth consistency.

STEAM HOR MOK PLA

  • Place shredded cabbage on the bottom of your banana leaf bowls. Alternatively, you can use ramekin dishes or a hollowed out coconut shell.
  • Spoon a generous layer of your fish custard atop the cabbage.
  • Place your bowls in a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes, or until it puffs up and is slightly firm / jelly-like.

HEAT COCONUT MILK

  • Mix rice flour with coconut milk in a mixing bowl.
  • Heat in a sauce pan over low-medium heat, stirring until thickened.

SERVE

  • When the custard is done, spoon some of the thickened coconut milk on top of it and garnish with strips of kaffir lime leaves and sliced chilies. Serve with jasmine rice.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • This recipe yields enough steamed fish custard for a family of 4.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: Cut one leaf into thin strips, put the rest in the food processor.
  • Fish: Hor mok pla can be made with a variety of fish: pangasius, cod, salmon, tilapia, snapper, mackerel, sea bass, and more. Additionally, you can use other seafood such as crab, prawn/shrimp. I opted for pangasius fillet for its mild flavor and soft texture.

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