In the video above, Top Chef alum Dale Talde shares his recipe for insanely flavorful fish tacos, one of the first dishes he conceptualized for his eponymous Brooklyn hot spot Talde.
A homemade tomato jam—packed with spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger and garlic—lends a sweet, complex heat to the mild white fish as it roasts inside a banana leaf. Top with a simple mixture of herbs and lime juice for a fresh finish, and let your guests serve themselves for a casual dinner that’ll make you feel like you’re on the beach.
“When you’re eating food, I love when it transports you someplace,” Talde says. “If you can capture what vacation tastes like, this to me is [it].”
Watch the full video to see how Talde makes them, then try it yourself at home with the recipe below.
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Dale Talde’s Vietnamese Fish Tacos
2 large pieces banana leaf (about 14 x 10-in. each)
2 cups Asian tomato jam (recipe below)
8 (6-oz.) skin-on branzino, sea bass, or red snapper fillets
About 2 tsp. vegetable oil
About 18 small flour tortillas
⅔ cup loosely packed Thai basil leaves
⅔ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
⅔ cup loosely packed roughly chopped dill
2 limes, cut into wedges
Flaky sea or kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
2. Lay one of the banana leaves shiny side down, positioning it so that one of the long edges faces you. Spread ⅓ cup of the tomato jam diagonally on the leaf to form a layer about the width of 2 fillets sitting side by side. Stack two pairs of the fillets to approximate a whole fish (two skin side down on the bottom, two skin side up on top) on the layer of jam, slathering ⅓ cup of the tomato jam between the fillets and another ⅓ cup of the jam on top of the stack.
3. Fold the two empty corners of the banana leaf over the fish so that they meet in the middle, leaving an inch or two of space between the leaf and the top layer of tomato jam. Use a toothpick or two to fasten the corners together. Repeat
the process with the remaining banana leaf, jam, and fish. Drizzle the top of the banana leaf packages with the vegetable oil.
4. Set the banana leaf packages toothpick sides up on a baking sheet. Bake just until the fish is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. To make sure it’s done, insert a butter knife into the thickest part of a fillet. Carefully press the knife to your lip. If it’s just hotter than is comfortable, it’s done.
5. Meanwhile, briefly heat a few tortillas in a hot dry pan on both sides until they just begin to puff up, then transfer them to a large kitchen towel–lined bowl and cover with a plate to keep them warm while you heat the rest.
6. When the fish is ready, combine the herbs in a bowl, dress them with a generous squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt, and toss gently but well.
7. Open the banana leaves, pile the herbs on the fish, and serve with the tortillas and lime wedges.
Asian Tomato Jam
1½ pounds tomatoes (about 3 large), cored and halved
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. mustard seeds (yellow or black)
6 Asian dried red chiles
3 large shallots, sliced
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
½ cup Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup thinly sliced scallion greens
1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with a couple tablespoons of the oil, and toss gently. Roast them cut sides down until they’re very soft and well charred, about 30 minutes.
2. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the coriander, turmeric, cardamom, mustard seeds, and chiles and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the mustard seeds start to pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about 8 minutes.
3. Stir in the roasted tomatoes, fish sauce, and sugar, and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes occasionally but leaving the mixture very chunky, until it has thickened to texture just slightly looser than a
jarred tomato salsa, about 10 minutes.
4. Let it cool to warm. Fish out the dried chiles and discard them, then stir in the lime juice and scallions. If you add the lime juice and scallions just before you use it, the jam keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.