Meen Pollichathu (Kerala Fish Cooked in a Banana Leaf)

Photo by Andrew Cebulka

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6-8 servings

  • 1 pound grouper fillet, cut into 4-inch pieces
  • 4 large banana leaves (or use parchment paper)
  • ½ cup roughly chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup grated unsweetened coconut¼ cup grated sweetened coconut
  • 3 roughly chopped Serrano chilies (approximately ⅓ cup)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons ghee (clarified butter), separated
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Kitchen twine
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat water in pan big enough to hold banana leaves. (Disregard this step if using parchment).
  2. Rinse fish fillet with water, pat dry, and cut into 3-inch pieces. Cover chopped fish on plate and set aside in refrigerator.
  3. Remove center stem from banana leaves. Cut the two halves in half, creating four banana leaf pieces from each leaf.
  4. Soften banana leaves by dipping them in the pan of hot water for about 30 seconds. Remove leaves from water, wipe each piece dry, and set aside.
  5. Place onions, sweetened and unsweetened coconut, Serrano chili, cilantro leaves, mint, and coconut milk together in blender or food processor and blend until thick paste forms. Add a little water if paste is too thick to grind. Set aside.
  6. Heat 1 teaspoon of ghee with coconut oil in ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin, coriander, garam masala, salt, and pepper to pan. Mix and sauté for 3−4 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 2−3 minutes.Add blender mixture to saucepan and stir until well mixed. Cook for 5 minutes, or until sauce has re-thickened to a paste-like consistency. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.
  7. Place the banana leaf squares and fish on a flat work surface.
  8. Apply the paste from the saucepan liberally to both sides of each piece of fish. Sprinkle lemon juice on both sides of fish over paste.
  9. Place a piece of fish on each banana leaf and wrap up like a parcel. Tie parcel firmly with kitchen string. Repeat until all fish is secured in parcels.
  10. In a heavy frying pan, heat the remaining teaspoon of ghee over medium heat.
  11. Fry the banana leaf fish parcels together on one side for 2 minutes. Turn over and fry on other side for 3 minutes. Leaves will darken and shrink.** Cover pan and place in oven at 325 degrees for 5−7 minutes.
  12. Open parcels carefully and serve immediately.

**If using parchment, do not fry. Secure fish as indicated with twine and close tightly.  Place packages in covered dish and cook in oven at 325 degrees for 8 minutes. Let sit for 2 minutes before opening parchment and serving.

  • from Lavanya Sabin of Lavanya's House, Charleston, SC

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