MSC Eco Label

Pollichathu fish in banana leaves

Prep Time15 mins
Cooking Time35 mins
Bart van Olphen holding up a large crab

Recipe By

Bart van Olphen MSC ambassador and sustainable seafood chef




1 tbsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of 2 lemons
4 x 300–400-g/10–14-oz whole round fish, such as mullet
Coconut oil for frying



3-cm/1¼-inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
125 ml/4 fl oz/8 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
4 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp finely chopped green
Chillies (chiles)
Handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves
3 onions, chopped
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground turmeric
6 tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 tbsp coconut milk
4 banana leaves, each large enough to enclose a fish
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 lime, sliced

Alternative shellfish

Mullet or whiting
  1. To make the marinade, in a bowl, mix together the chilli powder, ground turmeric, lemon juice and salt to taste. Stir in 1 tablespoon of cold water.
  2. To prepare the fish, clean the fish (see page 398). With a sharp knife, make cuts 1.5 cm/²/³ inch apart into the flesh on each side and, wearing thin, plastic gloves, rub the marinade all over the fish.
  3. Heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a high heat and fry the fish for 4–6 minutes on each side until browned. Drain from the pan and set aside. If using the same pan to make the masala, wash and dry it.
  4. To make the masala, put the ginger, coconut oil, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, garlic, green chillies (chiles), curry leaves and chopped onions in a frying pan and fry for 2 minutes. Add the chilli powder, ground turmeric and tomatoes and season with salt. Cook for 10–15 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the coconut milk and cook for a further 1–2 minutes.
  5. To assemble the parcels, hold one side of each banana leaf over a gas flame (or use a chef’s blow torch) for a few seconds to soften it. Divide half of the masala between the four leaves, place the fish on top and, reserving 1 tablespoon, spread the rest of the masala over the fish. Fold the banana leaves around the fish to make four parcels, tying them up securely with thin string. Fry the parcels in a dry frying pan for 2 minutes on each side over a medium-high heat.
  6. Cook the sliced onion and tomatoes for 2 minutes in a pan with the reserved tablespoon of masala.
  7. Open the banana leaves and serve the fish immediately with the onion and tomato mixture spooned on top. Top each with a slice of lime.
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