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Karimeen Pollichathu Recipe (Pearl Spot with Spices Smoked in Banana Leaf)

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Karimeen Pollichathu recipe

Perhaps, the most famous seafood preparation from the backwaters of Kerala.
Karimeen Pollichathu is a much revered delicacy of the region for two reasons; one for the fish itself and the second, for its unique style of preparation.
The fish is first marinated with spices, shallow fried and then wrapped in a banana leaf with more spices and aromatics; and then finally smoked over wood fire. Since wood fired stoves have become a luxury these days, you can either slow cook using a grill, pan or oven.
Though this dish works best with Karimeen, you can use other seafood too like Spanish mackerel, Indian mackerel, snapper fillets, pomfret or even tiger prawns.

Ingredients:
1. 2 whole Karimeen/pearl spot
2. 1 cup coconut oil (to be used in small quantities at different stages of the dish)
3. 2 sprigs curry leaves

For marination:
4. 1 tsp red chilli powder
5. ½ tsp turmeric powder
6. ½ tsp garlic paste
7. ½ tsp ginger paste
8. Salt, to season
9. ¼ tsp black pepper powder
10. 1 tbsp lemon juice

For the coating:
11. ½ tsp mustard seeds
12. 2 green chillies; finely chopped
13. 2 large garlic cloves; finely chopped
14. ½ inch ginger, finely chopped
15. 2 sprigs curry leaves
16. 6 – 8 shallots, finely chopped
17. ½ tsp coriander powder
18. ½ tsp fenugreek powder
19. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
20. ½ tsp red chilli powder
21. 1 ripe tomato; finely chopped
22. 2 banana/plantain leaf; cleaned well and no tears
23. Salt, to season

Method:
• Remove the guts and clean the fish well; pat dry and keep aside for marination. Score the fish lightly.
• Make a marinade using all the ingredients listed with as little water as possible. Smear it well on the fish and keep aside for at least 2-3 hours or overnight if possible.
• Heat 4-5 tbsp coconut oil; add a few curry leaves to the hot oil and shallow fry the fish on both side till half done. Remove and keep aside.
• Into the remaining oil, add mustard seeds and crackle. Then add chopped green chillies, ginger-garlic, curry leaves, chopped small onions and sauté well.
• Next, add a paste of coriander powder, turmeric powder, fenugreek powder and red chilli powder and sauté again.
• Add the sliced tomatoes, season with salt and sauté till the mixture comes together but not completely mushy.
• Warm the banana leaves lightly over a flame to prevent it from cracking while rolling into parcels.
• Place ¼ th of the masala on the banana leaf, place one fried fish on top and then spoon more masala on top.
• Wrap the fish into a neat parcel and secure using thread or toothpicks. Repeat the same for the second fish.
• Heat a few spoons of coconut oil in a tawa or flat pan to smoking hot and place the wrapped fish parcels inside. Reduce heat to lowest and cook covered on either side for 15 minutes each.
• Open and serve warm with lemon wedges.

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