In Keralam, a coastal state of India, pomfret fish (also known as anchovy) is one of the best loved fish dishes. A spicy, moist and soft fish, pomfret is delicious when baked in its own juices. The most famous recipe is called “Keralan Style Baked Pomfret Fish”, which is a baked dish with a tomato-based sauce. Chicken, pork, mutton, or beef can also be used.

The pomfret is a very popular fish in many parts of the world and it has a great taste to it. It is a very small fish that grows to between 1-2 inches. A very popular fish in Kerala is the pomfret which is a small fish that can be found in the Malabar Coast of Kerala. It is a popular fish cooked in a number of ways like cooked in a curry or even fried. The fish is very delicious and can be prepared easily.

This is a classic Kerala (India) fish recipe, and it is one of the most popular seafood recipes in the state. The key ingredients are the fresh fish, coconut and ghee. Ghee is a clarified butter. You can buy ghee in Indian grocery stores, or make your own by cooking butter very slowly until all the water has evaporated. This will make a golden, intensely flavored butter.

Though I called it kerelan style baked pomfret fish, it is more often known in Kerala as meen pollichatu. This is a traditional Kerelan dish. Usually, pearl spot fish (karimeen) is used, however this time I used pompfret fish. Fish is fried in meen polli chattu, then wrapped in banana leaf with a specific masala and served on the tava again.

I’m using the same few spices this time, but there’s a little difference in this Meen pollichattu, which I didn’t use in my previous recipe. I really loved the way the fish was wrapped in banana leaf. I’ve become so hooked to it that whenever I get pomfret fish, I attempt to create meen pollichathu. Wrapping the fish in banana or aluminum foil makes it softer and moister, and since it’s wrapped in banana leaves, it’s fragrant and delicious.

Because I used coconut milk in this recipe, it differs from my previous one. It’s as simple as cooking some onions with seasonings and wrapping them around the fish. However, if you want, you may add tamarind paste or kokum water (fish tamarind or meenpuli, commonly known as kokum) to your taste. Kokum is mostly used as a sour element in kerela and curries.

I cooked the fish before wrapping it in masala in this meen pollichathu. If you want, you may wrap the marinated fish in plastic wrap and fry it on a skillet or tava, but this will take an additional 10 minutes since it is prepared from raw fish.

If you want, you may wrap the fish in the same way, but instead of baking it, you can fry it on a tava or skillet. I only had meen pollichathu once in a restaurant and was unsatisfied with the flavor, so I read some books and received some knowledge from one of my keralan friends (manju) and now I know how it should be done and how spices affect the taste. When you cook the fish on a banana leaf, it will be moist, tender, and juicy, and the fragrance of the banana leaf will be there as well.

I’ve cooked meen pollichattu six different ways so far, with slight variations. I’ve cooked it in the oven and also on a pan using aluminum foil, which was tasty as well. However, when you cook in banana leaf and fry it on tava or in the oven, bake it, the flavor of the banana leaf also comes from the fish, whereas in aluminum foil, only the fish and spice flavor comes through. Cooking the fish on a low heat on a tava while wrapped in banana leaf or aluminum foil and covered with a lid will make it more moist and delicious.

Because banana leaf is difficult to come by in this part of the world, I cooked it in the oven (baked) using aluminum foil. I used tiny pompfret fish this time, but you may use whatever solid fish you want.

Ingredients

    • 1 Pompfret Fish (small size)
    • The fish will be fried in oil.
    • Foil made of aluminum
    • 1 tbsp. coriander leaves (garnishing)
    • 10 curry leaves

To make the marinade

    • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 2 tsp lemon juice (ready made bottle)
    • Add salt as needed.
    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
    • 1 teaspoon of oil

Masala (or sauce)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10 onions (shallots) (chopped)
  • 7 curry leaves (optional)
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • Ginger &garlic paste- 3/4th tsp
  • 1 teaspoon ginger (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 12 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 50ml coconut milk
  • 15 mL of water
  • season with salt to taste

Method

    • First, thoroughly clean the whole fish and cut slits in it so that it may marinade properly.
    •  
    • Remove the onion, green chilies, and tomatoes from the pan and set them aside.
    •  
    • For the coconut milk, I used Maggi coconut milk powder, but you can also use fresh or coconut milk tin.
    • There are three phases to this process.

      a. Cooking the fish in a pan

      b. Masala/sauce preparation

      c. Wrapping and baking the fish

      a. Cooking the fish in a pan

    • To begin, marinade the fish for 1 hour, 4 hours, or overnight. In a dish, combine all masala (ingredients) and a few drops of water to create a thick paste. Then apply it on the fish.
    • Take a pan, add 2 tsp oil, and heat it up. Place the fish in the pan or tava, and as it starts to sizzle, spray a few droplets of oil around it and on top, so it doesn’t adhere to the pan. Cook the fish for a few minutes on one side and a few minutes on the other. Make sure the fish is thoroughly fried on all sides but not overcooked. It will be soft, but since it is cooked, it will taste like fried fish. It will just take 10 to 12 minutes. Cook it on a medium heat setting.
    • Keep the fish aside once it has been cooked.

b. Masala/sauce preparation

    • In a kadai, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, and when they sputter, add the shallots, swirl well, and cook until light brown and tender.
    • Now add the ginger and garlic paste, as well as the ginger pieces, and stir for a second. Finally, add the green chilies and toss thoroughly.
    • After 1 minute, add the diced tomato and all of the dry powders, mixing thoroughly. Add water as needed to prevent the spices from burning.
    • Cook until the tomatoes are mushy and thoroughly mixed with the spices, and the coconut milk has been absorbed. I didn’t cut the tomatoes carefully since they’ll soften during frying anyhow.
    • Cook over medium heat until the masala is dry, then simmer until it begins to release oil.
    • When the masala is done, it will start to leave oil on top and will have a thick gravy texture. When the masala is dry, turn it off and allow it cool.

c. Wrapping and baking the fish

  • Take a banana leaf or aluminum foil and grease the area where the masala and fish will be placed with a little oil (optional).
  • First, apply masala on aluminum foil, then lay fish on top, then repeat with masala.
  • Wrap the fish in the masala with some coriander leaves and curry leaves. I’ve done that on both fish. If you’re only going to use one fish, keep it simple.
  • Close the aluminum foil on both sides, then the other two sides, before piercing it with a toothpick or thread (cut it long and roll it on both sides). It’s just to prevent the wrap from being opened. Finish by tying up any loose ends.
  • Place the fish on the oven pan and bake it for 10 to 12 minutes in a preheated oven (200c).
  • Or

  • Put 1/2 tsp oil on the same tava where the fish was fried, when it becomes hot, add the banana leaf or aluminum foil and cook it on both sides until the leaf or foil turns brown or changes color.
  • Turn carefully since the gravy may leak out and the color of the banana leaf changes as it cooks.
  • You may shut the cover and cook the fish on a lower heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or you can cook the fish without the lid.
  • My experience has been that while the lid is closed, it is more juicy and tender; when the cover is opened and cooked, it is a bit dry but tastes excellent.
  • When the fish is done, put it on a dish and open the aluminum foil to check how well the masala has adhered to the fish and been coated.
  • The fish is well-adhered to the coriander leaves and masala.
  • Good flavor, peppery, with a hint of coconut milk.
  • It goes well with simple rice or any other meal you want.

Notes

  • If using a banana leaf, use a baby banana leaf instead of a large one, since it will not rip as easily.
  • It will be easier to apply the masala on fish and wraps if it is thick and somewhat dry.
  • If you want you can use chopped ginger and garlic instead if ginger & garlic paste.
  • If you want, you may decrease the amount of chilli. Depending on the amount of salt needed, add it.
  • If you don’t want to use tomato pieces, add 30ml coconut milk and simmer the masala until it dries, or use both chopped tomatoes and coconut milk for a distinct flavor.
  • Spices may be added to suit your preferences.
  • Chilli powder, ginger and garlic paste, turmeric powder, pepper powder, and lemon juice may all be added to the fish marinade according to personal preference. You may also add ginger and garlic paste, chilli powder, coriander powder, tomato, pepper powder, tamrind paste or kokum water (kokum steeped in boiling water for a few minutes), coconut milk, and other ingredients to the masala according to your preferences.
  • If the masala is sticking to the pan after the spices have been added and fried, a little water may be added while cooking.
  • Tinned coconut milk, fresh coconut milk, or coconut milk powder may be used, but it should not be too thick or thin.
  • I’m offering you another version of the same dish, but I’ve changed the spices and measurements that I used for the pompfret fish, so it’ll be easier for you if you’re using any medium-sized fish, but it’s hot.

a. Fish: 250g pompfret or 1 medium size (whole fish); slit the fish.

b. Marinade: 2 tsp chilli powder, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp pepper powder, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 tsp oil

c. Masala: 17 or 110 gms or 1 cup (chopped or sliced very thinly), oil 2 tbsp, ginger and garlic paste 1 tsp, tomatoes 1 (chopped), curry leaves 10 (chopped), mustard seeds 1 tsp, chilli powder 1 tsp, coriander powder 1 tbsp, coconut milk 1/2 cup (Maggi coconut milk powder used), salt to taste

 

This is a quick and easy recipe that is a perfect dish for weekends when you want to eat something but don’t fancy cooking. The recipe is very simple but the dish comes out great. It is a very versatile dish that can be served with a variety of sides like Plain Rice, Fresh Pepper Salad, and Grilled Vegetables. Also it is very adaptable since you can substitute the pomfret fish with other types of fish like ikan bakar (grilled fish) or tilapia.. Read more about baked fish recipes pakistani and let us know what you think.