Fried pomfret or pearlspot fish covered in a semi dry gravy and baked over coal wrapped in banana leaf a.k.a Meen pollichathu is a delicacy from Kerala that every seafood/ fish lover needs to try.
Crispy fish absorbing a gravy of onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic caramelizing in the heat of the charcoal onto the fish is a taste that is unlike any other.
Preparing this dish is an elaborate process but very well rewarding.
The recipe here uses aluminium foil instead of banana leaf, because where I am at banana leaves are hard to come by.
The recipe serves only two, so ensure to adjust your quantities according to your need.
I made this over charcoal for the last step, however you could try doing this on a grill or broiling in the oven too.
Let me know in the comments if you do try and how it went!
For the gravy
3 tbsp Cooking oil
1 tsp Black Mustard seeds
15 Curry leaves
1/2 cup Ginger (chopped)
15 cloves Garlic (sliced)
1 big Onion (chopped)
1 medium sized Tomato (chopped)
3 tbsp Black peppercorn (crushed)
1.5 tbsp Tamarind paste
Salt to taste
For frying fish
Cooking oil for shallow frying fish
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tbsp Chilli powder
1 tsp Cumin (Jeera) powder
2 tsp Coriander powder
2 tbsp Salt
2 medium sized Pomfret / Pearlspot fish (scales and belly cleaned and fins removed)
1/2 Lemon (optional)
Aluminium foil- enough to cover the fish like a package
Let’s start with the gravy-
1. In a pan, heat oil
2. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves and fry
3. Add ginger and garlic and cook until golden
4. To this, add the onions and saute until caramalized
5. At this point, add the tomatoes, salt and crushed black peppercorns.
6. Once cooked add the tamarind paste, mix well and turn off heat after a minute
You will now have a very thick gravy mix. Set this aside
The next step is frying the fish-
7. Make diagonal slits on the fish (as in picture above) and pat dry
8. Combine all the powders and salt listed in the ingredients for frying
9. Apply this mix on both sides of the fish and set aside
10. Heat the oil for frying the fish in a shallow pan
11. Fry one fish at a time, giving each side at last 5 minutes till the skin is a crispy brown
Set this aside.
Now we come to the last stage. Before starting, fire up the charcoal grill and make sure the charcoal is smoking and ready
12. Spread a dollop of gravy to the size of the fish in a piece of aluminum foil
13. Lay the fish over this
14. Now cover the top of the fish with another dollop of the gravy
15. Wrap the fish completely in the foil
16. Place over hot, burning charcoal and cook each side for 12-15 minutes
17. Remove from the heat and rest for 5 minutes before serving
Serve with a lemon wedge to drizzle.