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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Trail Chef: Editor's Choice Dinner--Thai Fish Bake

Senior editor and National Magazine Award-winner Tracy Ross shares a backcountry favorite, sorta

If I've learned just one thing here at Backpacker, it's that you don't question the vision of a true genius. So when Senior Editor Tracy Ross agreed to share her favorite trail meal with me, I knew that it would be a winner. After all, we're talking about a woman who just snagged a National Magazine Award—that's about the biggest honor the magazine world has to offer—in the essay category for "The Source of All Things." On top of that, she's a writing, editing, hiking, skiing, mountain biking machine. Believe me: Tracy Ross knows her stuff.

So, never you mind that she hasn't actually made her favorite recipe. To wit: "Full disclosure: I’ve never adapted this exotic, flavor-filled meal for the backcountry. But as the ghost of Julia Child is my witness, I swear to whip it up trailside by the next Fourth of July," Hey, that's okay by me.

Tracy's Thai Fish Bake
On the grill at home, the only respectable way to bake this dish is in banana leaves. But unless you’re going hiking in a jungle, use foil instead. Serves 2 to 3.

    *2-3 fillets frozen salmon
    * 2-4 sheets of aluminum foil
    * 1 shallot
    * 2 cloves garlic
    * 1 thumb-size piece ginger, sliced
    * 2 tsp. ground coriander
    * handful of basil leaves
    * 2 Tbsp. fish sauce (found in Asian and large-scale American markets)
    * 1/2 can coconut milk
    * 2 tsp lime zest
    * 1 fresh red chilli, sliced (remove seeds if you prefer a milder sauce)
    * 1 tsp. chili powder
    * 1 lime

At home:
1. Combine all marinade ingredients except the coconut milk powder in a food processor and process well.
2. Place fish and half of marinade in a large bowl (reserve second half for later), slathering fish in sauce.
3. Let fish marinate for 15-30 minutes.
4. Place marinated fish in two large zip-top bags and put back in freezer.
5. Fill small plastic container with remaining curry sauce.

In camp:
1. Build an open fire that you can cook on. 
2. Remove fish from zip-top bag and place one fish in the center of a piece of foil. Fold both sides of the foil over the fish, creating a square “packet.”
3. Place fish packets directly on coals (or a flat stone) and cook at least 15 minutes, or until fish is flaky.
4. Heat remaining curry sauce on camp stove set to simmer.
5. Serve with rice, couscous, bulghur, or in tortillas with cabbage and carrots.

Give it a try—and if you've got any tips to help Tracy whip it up by her deadline, by all means post 'em in the comment section below.

—Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Photo credit: Wetwebwork


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carlo cruz
Jun 19, 2009

oh i forgot to mention the name of my recipe we call it "chicken adobo slamman" its very good in plain rice... specially in long trek

carlo cruz
Jun 19, 2009

hmmmm yummiee... can i also give recipe? everytime we climb we have this menu in the list.. it can stay for 3 days still fresh and gettin more delicious.. just in case u wanna try it heres my email

Jun 18, 2009

The recipe sounds delicious, but did you really mean "curry sauce" in the directions? I didn't see any curry powder in there.

May 28, 2009

I'm not a real fan of fish, but I bet it would work with chicken too. I love cooking outdoors, and am always experimenting. I can't wait to read more recipes. The favorite for my family is Jambalaya when we backpack.

Sarah Kirkconnell
May 27, 2009

For trail use, if using fresh caught fish...consider using coconut cream powder to save weight.
You can also find many of the ingredients online at - just make sure the fish sauce is sealed in a leak proof bottle and double bagged.


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