“Meen Pollichatu”
Fish in banana leaves – Kerala style

Certain recipes are all about assembling the right ingredients together, "Meen pollichatu" a signature fish preparation of the central coastal region of Kerala is one good example of this class. In the original recipe a fresh water fish called Pearl spot ( Karimeen) is slow cooked with a limited number of spices in a pan lined with banana leaves, and the preparation is finished off with a fine drizzling of freshly squeezed coconut milk. Like many other dishes, this one also tastes best when all ingredients are fresh, but as long as you manage to gather all the required components together, a “close to original” taste is assured. With the advent of backwater tourism in Alappuzha and Kottayam, this fish curry now occupies a cardinal spot in the houseboat dinner menus. If you happen to cruise along the splendid backwaters of central Kerala, in a gorgeous houseboat like this, do request your chef on board (yes, most probably you will have one), to make a “Meen pollichathu” with a fresh catch of pearl spots.

Fish, cleaned - 1 lb (preferably whole)
Shallots - ¼ cup
Garlic - 2 tsp
Ginger - 2 tsp
Chilly powder - 1 ½ tbsp
Curry leaves - 10
Coconut oil - 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Coconut milk - ½ cup
Coconut Vinegar (optional) - 1 tsp
Banana leaves - to line the pan
Salt - ¼ tsp or to taste

Heat 1 tsp coconut oil, sauté shallots, garlic and ginger for two minutes; add two curry leaves and turn of the heat. Grind the sautéed mixture with chilly powder, 1 tsp coconut oil, salt and 1 tsp vinegar. Make deep cuts on both sides of the fish. Marinate fish in ground spice mixture for 1- 2 hours. Line a thick bottomed pan with banana leaves, arrange fish on top of the leaves. Slightly crush the remaining curry leaves and mix with 1 tsp coconut oil, spread over the fish, sprinkle with the remaining marinade. Cover with banana leaves, close with lid. Cook in medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid, sprinkle coconut milk (and optionally add ¼ cup of finely chopped tomatoes), increase the heat and cook till gravy is thick and coats the fish.

Baked version
Line a baking dish with foil and then line with banana leaves. Arrange the marinated fish topped with the rest of the ingredients and layer two pieces of banana leaves on top. Cover the baking dish with foil, poke holes on the foil to let the steam out. Bake at 300 degree F for 20 minutes. Remove the foil cover and leaf strips, sprinkle coconut milk and bake it at 350 degree for 10 more minutes or till gravy thickens.


gattina said...

what a fantastic recipe! Too bad in the area I live the seafood just looks aweful... I wish I could see more how you presented that beautiful chopped-veg by the side! I just love that leaf-bowls!

Chandrika said...

What a wonderful recipe! Can't wait to try it out...By the way, Archana, where do you get Banana leaves from? Chinese stores?

Shaheen said...

I have had this but never tried making it.What a fabulous presentation! Those leaf bowls remind me of my childhood playing with coconut palm leaves.

KrishnaArjuna said...

Fish looks absolutely delicious! I like the way you present your dishes. Those little pockets made out of the banana leaves are the cutest things I have ever seen. BTW where do you get banana leaves from?
If ever you plan to open a restaurant do let me know, I will be the first one in line :-)

Foodie's Hope said...

One word!! Fabulous!! I don't eat fish that much but this picture is making me go amd get some fish!!
Great job!!:)))

maneka nirmal said...

its one of my favorites among the toddyshop specialites and we used to enjoy eating and admiring the beauty of the backwaters during the india visits.....i make it here in U.S sometimes when ever i get sheep-head( a fish which has the similar taste to the karimeen ). archana..the pic is so tempting that i might call my Fishmonger right now...thanks girl..

Shankari said...

I dont fish, but the dish looks so appetizing.Hats of to you...Archana tujhe salaam!

shammi said...

Wow, Archana... I dont eat fish, but even to my eyes this looks wonderful! The photo is as always gorgeous :)

Linda said...

Archana -- I am a travel consultant. Now if we could just get one of those lovely houseboats to cruise on over to Oregon and get you on board as chef de cuisine -- *that* would be a memorable journey! Fish looks spectacular and I agree with Arjuna about the little banana leaf cups. Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

. vaai ooruthu (tamil)

mouth watering
/ \

Priya Bhaskaran said...

Archana..I am drooling ...where are you getting the banana leaves :( I am not getting it here.... is there any replacement for banana leaves???

Gini said...

I don't know if you will believe this but I have a draft in my folder with the same title:). That fish looks simply amazing. I made it a little differently using one of Mrs.K.M.Mathews recipe. Hope to post it as soon as time permits.

Monisha said...

Fish in Banana Leaves onboard a houseboat is an ideal vacation meal! With the cool water bubbling by, some steaming rice and 'Meen Pollichatu' and I'm in foodie heaven!

Rachel said...

Hi Archana,

Lovely recipe.Which fish did you use ? Is it Pomfret ???



Prema Sundar said...

I have seen the House boats in movies and have read abt it oo Archana. I have always wished to take a ride in it sometime.
This recipe of fish in banana leaves sounds delicious... and as usual the picture is excellent and the presentation is wonderful.
I can imagine how lovely it would be having this fish in a houseboat.

Annita said...

Hmm..mouthwatering Archana..my favorite dish though..and nice presentation as always..Which fish did u use here?

wheresmymind said...

Coconut Vinegar??? Wow...never have heard of that before :)

Meena Kandlakuti said...


nice recipe a true authentic way to cook...thanks for sharing a wonderful recipe.

shilpa said...

I love this dish. Was searching for the recipe from a long time. I make it in a bit different way, would love to try the authentic recipe from u. Thanks Archana.

starry nights said...

Thank you for sharing these recipes.Cant wait to try it out.have the banana leaves in my backyard, need to get hold of some fish.thanks.

RP said...

Wow! That sure makes me feel like I am in Kerala! Looks gorgous!!

Nabeela said...

what a wonderful looking fish recipe Archana!! I'm sure just eating it will make one feel like they are in Kerala backwaters :)

priya said...

Its mouth watering and you just tempt with your pictures huh:-)))
In banana leaf makes a wonderful tummy full.

Bhargavi said...

Great photograph and good recipe.
Thx for sharing.

Revathi said...

the packets of banana leaves are awesome idea !!

shruti said...

its so yummy..
will give this receipe to my mom and tell her to try it once and then i will tell you how much i love it...

archana said...

Thank you friend, it was fun to make those bowls.

Thank you. I usually buy banana leaves from an Asian store nearby.

Thank you, that is exactly what I thought about when I was making these bowls. Old times!!!!

Thank you, I am so happy that you liked it. I bought these banana leaves from an Asian store. Restaurant oh, boy!! Thank you dear.

Foodie's Hope
Thank you so much friend.

Thank you Su. I have been hearing about this Sheep head fish from many of my friends. I am still looking for it here.

Thank you dear, I salute you back for being this kind.

Thank you dear.

That is an awesome idea, but please do not accuse the “chef de…..” of eating up the whole stock of this dish. I just love it soooo (kidding!) If you happen to travel to Kerala, you will have to let me be your travel consultant.

Thank you

Priya B
Thank you. I buy banana leaves from an Asian market, I am sure you will find it in most of the Chinese, Thai, Viet, and sometimes Mexican food markets.

Thank you. Yes, great minds think alike!! Please do post it; I am always looking out for all different kinds of fish curries.

You are making me homesick! Very true.

The one you see in the photo is “Tilapia”, but pomfret of course tastes much better. If you are not planning on doing a whole fish, Halibut is an excellent choice.

Thank you for your kind words. It is an amazing experience Prema, hope you will consider it when you go home for vacation next time.

Thank you. One in the pic is “Tilapia”. Pomfret tastes much better of course, and Halibut goes well with this recipe too.


Thnak you

Thank you, could you please share your recipe with us. Your “Manglore masala fish” is already in my list of recipes to try.

Starry N,
Thank you. Banana leaves right from your backyard, wow, you are a queen! I am sure this recipe is going to taste much better when made with fresh banana leaves.

Thank you dear.

Thanks a bunch. Well yes, almost.

Thank you Priya.

Thank you so much for these kind words

Thank you. That sounds like a splendid plan!

sra said...

Hi Archana, how do you get it to look crusty and fried without frying it and without using flour? Thanks for stopping by my blog

Just for fun said...

Wow! what a wonderful fish!!

Deepa Cooks said...

Hi Archana,

U r making me hungry.The picture makes me to grab it & eat it.thanks for this nice recipe.

Mae said...

What a divine looking fish dish. I love the recipe!

gayathree said...

Hello Archana,
This is really a wonderful recipe.superb presentation.you are very artistic & talented.

Anonymous said...

i tried this recipe with white pomfret. It was so good. I didn't use tomatoes, may be because of that i didn't get that beautiful red colour. So at the end i sauteed 2 more small shallots and red paprika powder and added that also. The taste was excellent. Thank u so much. i got quick question also, did u fry ur fish little bit,because from ur picture i feel like that.. and u tried the stove top version, or baked version to get that crispy texture?

archana said...

Mae, Gayathree,
Thank you so much, i am glad that you liked it.

Hi Deepa,
Nowadays i am somehoe not getting emails for comments on some of the older posts. I just causally checked this post today and saw your comment, i am sorry if i am late. You can always modify the recipe according to your liking. Baking defanitely gives a crispier looking finish to the fish,but the fish in the photo is made in a pan. After the cooking is done i scape out the bits and pieces of spice mixture sticking to the leaf, and spread it over the fish. That helps in giving a crusty look to it. Hope this helps.

ras said...

heloo.. nannyitto ,,

but it was slightly watery.. i tried the baked version.

total 30' is enough for baking...??


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