Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish

meen pollichathu

Recently I tried my hand at cooking this age-old classic fish delicacy that makes Kerala so popular as a seafood destination for foodies from all over the world.

Meen Pollichathu  literally translates to smoked fish in Malayalam. The fish is coated in a spice rub and then folded inside plantain/banana leaves and smoked over a wood fire.

Firewood and the setup to cook over a fire is hard to come by in modern Kerala cities. Luckily for us, it just so happened that at my wife’s home in Kerala, the opportunity presented itself in such a manner I just had to get down to some serious cooking! Not only did we have firewood and an old school concrete pit to make a fire, we also had fresh produce off our backyard garden for the spice rub and good quality fresh catch from a local vendor! Just perfect!

Traditionally Meen Pollichathu uses a red curry spice paste made by blending together red chillies, onions, shallots, curry leaves and other spices. But what makes this particular recipe standout is the unique combination of just three key ingredientsgreen pepper, tamarind and shallots.

meen pollichathu spice mix

Green pepper adds a bite; tamarind imparts tanginess while the balance is struck by the mildly sweet and pungent flavour of shallots. Unlike black pepper, green pepper can be used liberally in cooking without overpowering the taste of the whole dish/curry paste.

The choice of fish is up to you. Usually karimeen (Pearl Spot) is what is used to make meen pollichathu. I choose a local fish (chemballi – a variety of red snapper) that was about the size of my palm.

Cooking Instructions

  • Grind together green peppers pods, tamarind and a handful of shallots in a grinder. Drizzle in some coconut oil and salt to taste.
  • Lightly heat the banana leaf over a direct flame to make it flexible so that it folds well without tearing.
  • Place each whole fish individually on a banana leaf. Add some of the ground paste onto the fish.
  • Fold and wrap the leaves over the fish using the leaf stem or a toothpick.
  • Place a cast iron skillet on the wood fire and wait until its smoking hot.
  • Place the wrapped fishes on the skillet. Make sure you don’t crowd the skillet.
  • Partially close the lid to smoke the fish and it turn every 5 minutes, until its charred outside.
  • Serve as a side dish or on its own with drinks 🙂 enjoy!

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Here’s also a print friendly YUMMLY recipe card..

Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Meen Pollichathu – Kerala Style Smoked Fish

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 3/4 handful of green pepper pods
  • 2-3, 2" long pods of tamarind - deseeded
  • 1 handful of shallots
  • 4-6 whole fish (palm sized); skin on or off
  • 4-6 squares of banana leaves

Instructions

  1. Grind together green peppers pods, tamarind and a handful of shallots in a grinder. Drizzle in some coconut oil and salt to taste.
  2. Lightly heat the banana leaf over a direct flame to make it flexible so that it folds well without tearing.
  3. Place each whole fish individually on a banana leaf. Add some of the ground paste onto the fish.
  4. Fold and wrap the leaves over the fish using the leaf stem or a toothpick.
  5. Place a cast iron skillet on the wood fire and wait until its smoking hot.
  6. Place the wrapped fishes on the skillet. Make sure you don't crowd the skillet.
  7. Partially close the lid to smoke the fish and it turn every 5 minutes, until its charred outside.
  8. Serve as a side dish or on its own with drinks 🙂 enjoy!

Notes

If you can't get banana leaves may use other large leaves for a different flavor.

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