Karimeen Pollichathu is a famous fish-dish in Kerala, especially in the areas that have backwaters where pearlspots or karimeen is prevalent. The recipe below is medium spicy, which can be eaten by adults and kids. If you want a spicy version increase the quantity of chilly powder by 1 more teaspoon and the coriander powder by half a teaspoon.
Karimeen or other soft fish fillet - 500 gms
salt and turmeric to marinate the fish
Oil to sear the fish
for the gravy
2 Onion or 15 Small onions
2-3 green chillies or 6 bird eye chillies (kanthari mulaku)
6 medium sized garlic cloves
Crush all the above ingredient in a mortar or just blend it in mixie for 5 -7 seconds
3/4 inch ginger - crushed (keep it separately)
turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
chilly powder - 1 1/2 tsp
coriander powder - 1/2 - 3/4 tsp
pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
tomatoes - 3 medium
salt to taste
thick coconut milk - 125 ml (extracted from half a coconut)
coconut oil - 1 1/2 tbsp
curry leaf - 2 sprigs
Banana Leaf to wrap the fish - 2 , half portions
Marinate the fish with salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric. Fry the fish quickly in Oil. It need not turn crispy. This is only for the protein to get sealed to the skin. Check the image below.
To make the sauce, you can use the oil left over from frying the fish. Heat the oil and add the crushed onion, garlic and chilly. Stir for a minute and add the crushed ginger. Add all the powders and stir for few seconds. Add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Let the tomatoes soften. Check salt and turn off heat.
I like to add the coconut milk into the banana leaf wrap, so that it cooks along with the fish and does not lose flavour from overcooking it...i mean cooking it twice.
Heat the banana leaf over fire. Place it in a pan.
I did not go the contemporary way of wrapping one fish in a parcel. Instead i used a method whereby you can save time.
Once the banana leaf is placed on a wide pan (an Uruli), pour half of the tomato sauce over it and 3/4th of the thick coconut milk, as seen in the picture below.
Place the fish as seen in the picture, place the remaining tomato mixture and drizzle some coconut oil. Place another banana leaf on top.
Customize your batch according to the size of the pan you are using Fold it in a manner that the juices do not run out of the wrap. Place heavy plate or spoon on the leaf. Pour a tablespoon of coconut oil on the side of the wrap. Close the pan / uruli with a lid. Place the pan on the stove and cook it in low flame for 15 minutes.
Once done, be prepared for the nice aroma of coconut milk, coconut oil and the fish pollichathu itself. Open the wrap carefully and serve the fish with rice, palappam or soft idiyappam.