30 September 2013


Karimeen Pollichathu/Pearl spot fish baked/grilled in Banana leaves


My previous post was Karimeen Porichathu/Pearl Spot fish fry and this is also the same fish,Karimeen's/Pearl spot's recipe but this recipe makes the previous one just "Extraordinary".If Karimeen porichathu is the king of any Kerala fish fries ,then this recipe,Karimeen pollichathu is the king of king's fish fry /grilled/baked.It is a pretty popular, one of a kind, must try traditional delicacy of Kerala,southern state of India.They are quite famous in well known restaurants in Kerala and moreover in houseboats as one of the must and  most sought after dish in their respective menus.It is a spicy cum tangy fish fry.The word "Pollichathu" means "burnt/grilled".Initially fish is marinated and mildly fried and eventually wrapped in Banana leaves and deep steamed/baked/grilled with Kerala spices for a spicy kick and tomato/tamarinds/cambodge(Malabar Tamarind) for the tanginess. Once you have this dish , you are never ever going to forget this fish in your life and you will be always thanking Kerala or a Keraltie for sure ;).

Since I am from The Venice....I mean "The Venice from the East" ;),"Alleppey" , Kerala, we get this fish abundantly yet they are quite pricey .Therefore , it is not a staple fish in every household .This fish is prepared mostly during any special occasions. However, luckily my aunts, my mom's sister and my dad's sister live in beautiful houses located near by (different) backwaters and so whenever we visited them, we were pampered with this delicacy and  it used to be a fun filled sights to watch loads of local people gathering near the backwater for fishing and the way they would catch some fresh fighting for life fish and how they would distribute among themselves and eventually people retiring to their home happily gearing up for a yummy meal of the day .

I kinda envy my aunts (in a good way though) :).. How lucky they are to live near beautiful backwaters, surrounded by coconut trees & paddy fields, boats, fresh varieties of fish every day, like a serene life in the lap of mother nature.. How simple & peaceful !!

Anyways, my aunts like my mom are undoubtedly great at cooking .They all have their own way of cooking style and everything they cook become simply finger licking ones. Since I was raised in North India, we never got this fish and so mom never made this until we got settled in Kerala. So, I got a chance to try this recipe at my aunt's house first and then in the houseboat. The flavor varied but the tastes lingers and tickles my palate every now and then.

Alleppey Houseboat-What a beauty..what a sight !!

Karimeen Polichathu


Karimeen/Pearl spot fish (medium)- 2 nos.

For marination
Red chili powder - 1 tablespoon
Coriander powder - 1/4 teaspoon(optional)
Pepper powder- 1 teaspoon
Fennel powder-1/4 teaspoon(optional)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Water-1 teaspoon
Lemon juice- 1 teaspoon
Salt-to taste

To grind 
Ginger,chopped - 1 teaspoon
Garlic,chopped- 1 teaspoon
Shallots- 2 nos.

For masala gravy 
Shallots, chopped - 1 cup
Green chillies, chopped- 2-4 nos.
Tomato, chopped - 1 no.
Red chili powder - 1 tablespoon
Coriander powder- 1 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder-1/4 teaspoon
Pepper powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - to taste
Thick coconut milk - 4 tablespoon
Coconut Oil-2-4 tablespoon
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
Banana leaves, Long enough for wrapping - 2 nos.
Lemon juice- As needed

Preparation method:

  • Clean the fish properly and slit them both the sides.
  • Marinate them with chili powder, coriander powder, pepper powder, fennel powder, turmeric powder, lemon juice,little water and salt both the sides and keep it aside/refrigerate it for 15-30 minutes.
  • Heat a pan with coconut oil , put 2 sprig of curry leaves and on that shallow fry the fish ,should not be completely cooked or crispy just a light fry both sides until like light brown on medium flame.Remove the fish keep them aside.
  • If there is enough oil left continue making the gravy in the same pan or else add enough oil or heat it in another pan,saute the onions till transparent,then add green chillies,ginger-garlic-shallot ground paste and saute for a while until the ginger-garlic's raw smell disappears.
  • Add red chili powder,coriander powder,turmeric powder,pepper powder,salt (bear in mind that there is already salt in the fried fish ,so add accordingly) and saute until oil separates.
  • Add tomato,curry leaves and cook covered until it becomes a gravy.
  • Add the coconut milk ,mix well and cook on medium to slow flame until it becomes a thick paste/masala consistency.
  • Take the banana leaves and wilt it under a slow flame/pass it slowly from end to end over the low flame of a cooking gas/stove.Make sure you don't burn them.Once done wipe it with a damp cloth.This is done to make it flexible to fold properly so that the leaf doesn't tear apart.
  • Now put a layer of masala on the banana leaf and the fried fish on the top ,followed by a second layer of masala on the top of the fish.
  • Now wrap the masala fish like a food parcel and tie it with a Banana string , so that the flavor remains trapped inside the wrap and fish cooks well infused in the masala mix completely.
  • Heat a pan with enough oil and place the banana wrapped fish and cook it covered on medium flame for like 15 minutes both the sides.
  • Remove the cover and the Karimeen pollichathu is ready to be served with a plate of steamed rice.     

  1.  If the fish is a frozen one and you want fish from your freezer to taste like it was freshly caught, place the frozen fish in a bath of milk until it thaws. (Courtesy: Reader's digest) 
  2.  You can either grind the ginger garlic or use the chopped ones directly. But shallot should be ground.
  3.  If you don't have Banana leaves, use Aluminium foil instead but the taste will suffer then.
  4. You can also steam the banana wrapped fish like in an idli maker for 15 minutes approx. Or bake it for 20-30 minutes or until done at 350 F.
Here is a parcel for YOU. (Warning: Dig in before Honey P would attack U & make your pollichathu ..hehe :P.This is one of his favorite food.)Eating

BTW,did u check my celebration gallery,do check the Celebration page ..hope u'll like it ;)...

Bon Appetit,