Karimeen Pollichathu ~ Pearlspot in Banana Leaf

This post brings in a lot of nostalgia. I had already mentioned in a post earlier as to how umma and I had made it a point to go to have food in Keralite restaurants every weekend. Every weekend, we used to not fail to order one karimeen pollichathu. We always used to wonder how restaurants would get hold of such fresh pearl-spot when it was really difficult to get them in the market! Keeping our unwanted doubts aside, we both used to devour it to the last bit, even staring at each other to who would clean up the banana leaf and the fish bones at the end of the meal! Whoever had some spare porotta or vellapam in their plate would clean up the leaf and who was done would clean up the bone, that used to be the deal! Now when I actually go to see, I have lost the mood of eating from outside. Going out with the kids on Thursdays when HD is extremely busy is not something that I enjoy, especially when Azza has "skate shoes" attached on her legs! With umma around, they used to be far disciplined but with me, maybe because they are concerned about my weight (darn!), both of them would drive me nuts! So going on Thursdays is literally out of my agenda these days unless and until it is an unavoidable trip. Somehow now I miss those Thursdays. I used to feel tired and just push myself up just for her, and now I don't have any motivation to do so. Maybe with time, I will get used to this kind of a schedule or maybe when the kids grow up - which they are, so quickly! - it will get easier to go out with them and enjoy those meals. But coming to think about it, there is no fun in eating alone, isn't it? :)

This is one way of doing the pollichathu - which is basically steaming a partly fried fish with some onion masala in a banana leaf. The end result is just so good that you would end up literally licking the banana leaf as well! Though the process is slightly a bit long, it is quite easy to make and delicious to have. I am hoping to try with other fishes as well soon, though karimeen or pearlspot is always the best when made this way!

Karimeen Pollichathu ~ Pearlspot in Banana Leaf
Serves 3


For fish:
3 pearl spots (karimeen), cleaned and washed
2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp fennel powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
3 tbsp vinegar
Salt to taste
Coconut oil for shallow frying

For masala:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
2 medium onions, minced
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp fennel powder
1 large tomato, chopped

2 large banana leaf, with center stalk taken out
Curry leaves for garnish


Mix ingredients from red chilli to salt into a paste. Draw slits on the "karimeen". Coat well on the fish and leave the marination for at least half an hour. The more you keep, the more the masala seeps into the fish. Heat oil in a fry pan. Fry the fish on both the sides till browned. You do not need to fully cook the fish. Set aside.

Now heat oil in a saucepan. Fry the curry leaves briefly. Add the shallots and onions and saute till browned. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and saute till the raw smell is gone. Add the masala powders and saute till fried. Finally add the tomato and cook till the tomatoes get mashed up.

Wash the banana leaf well and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Light up the flame and run the banana leaf on top of it till stiff. Hold it just close enough for the heat to touch and ensure not to burn. You will notice the leaf becoming slightly dullish green and stiff. Do this for all the three pieces cut.

Place some masala in the banana leaf, then put the fish and rub some more masala on the top. Wrap the pack, just like how you would do with a newspaper. Tie it tightly using a twig, or with the center stalk like I did.

Heat a chapathi tawa or a fry pan. Once heated, keep on medium flame and put the wrap on it. Cook on closed lid for 10 minutes on one side, flip and cook for another 10 minutes. Not necessary that the leaf needs to be charred, but ensure that it changes its color.

Serve as is in a plate. To enjoy it, open the twig, carefully remove the wrap. Using a fork - or leave it, your hands if it is cool enough to handle - push out the soft pieces of fish and enjoy with some Kerala porattas, chapathis or even rice!

Steaming hot...

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