Posted on | April 9, 2007 | 32 Comments |
One of my favorite fish preparations from back home is Karimeen Pollichathu- Karimeen (Pearl Spot, a type of fish found in the back waters of Kerala) along with spices wrapped in Banana leaves and baked to perfection. The best authentic form of Karimeen Pollichathu is available at the Toddy Shops in central Kerala. Yes, my parents used to take us to Toddy shops, but not the kind that you are thinking of (if you have ever heard about the streetside kallu shaapu in Kerala) ! No, these are family friendly classy restaurants that serve authentic “Naadan”(traditional) fare like Kappa Vevichadu, Appams, Konchu Varthathu, Naadan Meen curry, Frog leg fry etc. along with fresh toddy (Kallu) . We used to even get a little taste of the toddy once in a while!
If you ever visit Kerala, you won’t miss Kumarakam, the land of backwaters, the favorite tourist destination of Indians and foreigners alike. Kumarakam was voted as one of the top ten tourist destinations in the world! While in Kumarakam, you would definitely rent a houseboat for your backwater tours. These houseboats have all the comforts of a hotel and normally come with a personal chef who would catch fresh fish from the Vembanadu lake and would cook it the way you like right there in front of you, it can’t get any fresher than that! The boat would also take you to the restaurants and toddy shops along the shores where they serve fresh caught seafood cooked in authentic Kerala style. Make sure you order Karimeen Pollichathu, and Konchu Fry (Lobster Fry) along with some fresh toddy. Yummy!
Okay, before I get sidetracked too much, let me get into the recipe of the day. Since I don’t get Karimeen here, and banana leaves are hard to find, I normally make Fish Pollichathu using Tilapia and use Aluminum foil for wrapping the fish, and it turns out really good. But this time around, I decided to skip the wrapping and baking completely and do the entire cooking stove-top, I can’t call this fish Pollichathu, but the result was so yummy and the process is much easier. It uses the same ingredients as the Fish Pollichathu, I just altered the last step in the process.
(Click on the image for a more detailed view)
- 1 whole fresh Tilapia, cleaned well
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 2 green chilies thinly sliced
- 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 bunch curry leaves
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- salt for taste
- Oil for frying
- Make gashes on both sides of the fish. Rub the fish with a mixture of 1/2 tsp pepper powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric powder and salt and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
- Mix a little water with the red chili powder, coriander powder, reminder of the turmeric and pepper powders to make a thick paste.
- In a frying pan large enough to hold the fish, heat 1 tbsp of oil. Saute the shallots, ginger, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves till the shallots just start to brown. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
- In the same pan, add a little more oil if needed, and fry the fish lightly on both sides and remove from the pan.
- Add 1 tsp oil and splutter mustard seeds in the same pan. Add the spice paste and reduce the heat to low. Fry the spice paste till the spices are cooked well and fragrant.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the lightly fried fish and coconut milk to the pan. Mix well, turning the fish to make sure the fish is well coated with the coconut milk + spice mixture. Add sauteed shallots, ginger, garlic, chilly and curry leaves to the pan and mix well by turning the fish, again making sure that the fish is well coated.
- Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for a while till most of the gravy is gone, turning the fish once during the process.
- Once most of the liquid is gone, increase the heat and fry the fish till the gravy is completely absorbed and the spices are sticking well to the fish, turn the fish once during this process too to fry both sides well.
If you decide to bake the fish in banana leaves, there are only slight changes to the process. Follow the recipe till step 5. in step 6, do not add the fish to the pan. Add the coconut milk and the sauteed shallots mix and simmer for a while. Half way through the simmering process, when half the liquid is gone, add the fish and cook for just 2 minutes on high till some more gravy is absorbed by the fish.
Wrap the fish and the spices along with the gravy in banana leaves and tie to secure. Bake in the oven at 350F for 15 minutes. The trick is to make sure that the fish is only half cooked before putting in the oven, otherwise the fish will break apart after the baking process.
Check out Shn’s authentic fish Pollichathu in Banana leaves recipe here: Grandma’s Meen Pollichathu – Fish in Banana leaf wraps – A Central Kerala Delicacy.
Since I talked about Kerala and Kumarakam at the starting of the post, thought I will share some pictures from my last trip to Kumarakam in 2004.
Here is a picture of the best konchu varuthathu (lobster fry) I’ve ever had, prepared in typical Kerala style in a Toddy Shop along the shores of Vembanadu lake in Kumarakam. These suckers were spicy!!!
This is the houseboat I was talking about before, with all the comforts of a good hotel with fully furnished bedroom, toilet, cozy living room, kitchen and dining area. You can rent this for the night, along with a personal chef!
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