Meen Pollichathu( Fish Grilled in Banana Leaf)

Recipe Courtesy: Preethi Varkey Karimbanal

The Great Gatsby of the Malayalee Kitchen!! The ingredients are simple and so is the process yet “meen Pollichathu” takes centre stage in any meal. It’s arrival in nature’s best gift wrapping and then the opening act!! There’s drama in every move, yet it is quintessentially true to its exquisite taste!

Preethi chechi is my go to person for any recipe and it’s rightfully so, as she knows the best. Anybody who has got the opportunity to eat at her home and experience her hospitality would vouch the same. This recipe is a mixture of recipes that she learnt from our grandmother, her mother (my aunt) and her mother-in-law. So please do check the suggested variations details at the end.

Ingredients

Fish – 350gms (2 portions of Pearl Spot, Sea Bream or any similar fish of your choice)

Shallots -250gms-350gms

Ginger- 1 inch

Garlic -2-3 cloves

Green Chilly -1

Chilli powder- 1-1.5 tsp

Turmeric -1/4 tsp

Tomato -1/2 -1

Juice of 1/2 a lime (depending on the sourness of tomato)

Salt – to taste

Coconut oil – for sauté and greasing the pan

Banana Leaf-1

Method

  • Firstly, clean the fish. Descale the fish with the back of a knife and remove the fin and tail part using scissors. Make a slit on the side and remove the guts and stomach . The head is not preferred in my house so that’s removed too. But that’s a personal choice.
  • Now apply some lime juice and salt ,or gram flour and curd on the fish and set it aside for 5-10 mts. Clean it afterwards with water, this helps to remove the “fishy” smell or ulumbu manam.
  • The amount of shallots used is your personal choice depending on the amount of masala you prefer around the fish. I prefer to use equal weight of fish and shallots as you could reuse the leftover for other gravies or egg roast masala.
  • Heat coconut oil in a pan, sauté shallots till they start getting slightly brown. There is no need to let them get golden brown. They should be brown yet soft.
  • Sauté sliced & chopped ginger-garlic and green chilly just till the raw smell is removed.
  • Take the chilli powder and turmeric in a ramekin and add a little water to blend it.
  • Add it to the shallots mix and let it cook for a minute. Add salt to taste.
  • Sauté chopped tomatoes. Add lime juice in case the tomatoes aren’t sour enough.
  • Set this masala aside
  • Take a banana leaf. Clean it with water and wipe clean.
  • Place it over a pan of boiling water. This will make the leaf more flexible and ease the wrapping process.
  • In the centre put some masala. Place the fish over it. Put a small portion in the inside portion of the fish. Finally, place another portion on the outside. The amount of masala put at each stage is a personal choice.
  • Wrap the fish like a present with the banana leaf and tie it up with a twine.
  • Slightly grease a frying pan (one with a lid) with coconut oil and put it on a medium flame.
  • Place the two wrapped fish packages and cover and let it cook for 5mts on one side. After this , flip the package and let it cook for another 5mts.
  • Take it out of the pan and let it rest for a minute. Slowly open the wrapping and check if it is done, else return to fire for another minute or two.

Variations:

In case you don’t have access to a banana leaf, you could use baking paper for making the fish wrapping.

This masala can also be made without any wrapping and the fish added directly to the required amount.

If you prefer the skin of the fish to be crisp, sear or shallow fry it on both side before the masala fish wrap session. This fish could be thinly marinated with chilly powder , turmeric and salt.

This recipe can be made with a little bit of coconut milk and finely chopped raw mangoes instead of tomatoes.

May the Fork be with you!!

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