King fish in banana leaf

From Thailand to India to Japan, from Central Asia to the Middle East to Europe, you’ll find many fish preparations that involve fish wrapped in some sort of leaf and then fried, baked or steamed. It can be compared to the classic French technique of fish en papillote (fish steamed in parchment pouches), and the grassy flavour and scent of the leaf penetrates well into the fish and gives it a fresh and refreshing aroma. Though banana leaf is exclusively used in this preparation across cultures, nouvelle cuisines do employ the use of various other aromatic leaves like ginger leaves with different kind of fish like Pomfret or Sea Bass to create a wide range of innovative preparations with distinctive taste and aroma. In India, the Patrani Maachi brought in by the migrating Iranians to India is argued as the beginning of the wrapped fish preparations in the country although in Goa, the Portuguese influence would have been the more likely source of this classic dish.

The Fisherman’s Barbeque masala lend itself beautifully to this preparation, and traditionally, King Fish (Visvonn is Konkani language) is used. You can of course try many other varieties like Pomfret and Kalunder (Pearl Spot), and depending upon your preference, you can grill, steam or fry. The masala itself is very simple and intensely aromatic, and also unique because of its coarse texture that enhances the flavour to a greater degree than finely ground mixtures. The following step by step illustrated method will show you how simple it is to arrive at this classic Goan preparation, the way it continues to be made in Goan homes generation after generation. Like all our other masalas, this masala too does all the hard work, needing no added ingredients, and makes Goan food accessible, desirable and simple to make, allowing you to be not only an expert in Goan cooking without spending too much time in the kitchen but also a connoisseur of traditional Goan cuisine. Enjoy.

What you need – 

  • King Fish sliced into not less than half inch pieces: 3 to 4
  • Banana Leaf: 2 large
  • Salt and 1 teaspoon of lime juice to season
  • The Women of Fatorda Fisherman’s Barbeque masala.

Mary Fernandes

This King Fish in Banana Leaf recipe is from Mary Fernandes of Murida, a locality in Fatorda, and for her family, this is an indispensable item in their vast repertoire of Portuguese influenced cuisine.

Step 1 – Take 3 to 4 large slices of King fish (Visvonn) in Konkani, about half an inch in thickness. Remove excess water by dabbing them with kitchen paper.

Step 2 – Season them with salt and a teaspoon of lime juice, rubbing them evenly into the fish. Keep it aside for 2-5 minutes.

Step 3 – After about 5 minutes , take a spoonful of The Women of Fatorda Fisherman’s Barbeque masala and massage them on to the fish. Our masala is coarsely ground so that you will find small pieces of chilli and ginger in the masala that will enhance the flavour.

Step 4 – Make sure that they are coated evenly. Too little masala will make it less flavourful and too much will mask the taste of the fish. The masala should just make a thin layer covering the flesh. Marinate both the sides.

Step 5 – Take the banana leaf, cut a piece big enough to cover the fish (warm the leaf slightly on the pan to become soft and easy to fold) and grease them with some oil.

Step 6 – Fold the two sides of the leaf over the fish so as to overlap.

Step 7 – And then fold the bottom and the top part over it creating a parcel.

Step 8 – Tie it up loosely with butcher’s twine or even fibre from the banana stem or a thread made from the leaf.

Step 9 – Repeat with the other fish slices and make ready all the parcels.

Step 10 – Heat a frying pan and moisten with oil. In Goan cooking, traditionally coconut oil is used but any oil will suffice. Place the fish parcels on the pan.

Step 11 – Cover with lid while they shallow fry. The lid will enable a bit of steaming also.

Step 12 – After about 10 minutes turn the parcels over to fry the other side.

Step 13 – You will see that the banana leaf has wilted and has taken on a brown colour. Cover again with the lid.

Step 14 – Fry for another 10 minutes and then take them out to rest for a few minutes.

Step 15 – Open the leaf carefully, and take in the fresh aroma of the spice scorned with that of the leaf. The King fish in banana leaf is ready.

Step 16 – Serve as an appetiser along with some vegetable salad or with mix or coriander chutney.

Note – The traditional way to serve this is with some slices of onions and tomatoes, and some slices of lime. The masala is slightly on the hotter side, so any salad that’s is faintly sweetish will also be a good accompaniment. Mint or coriander chutneys are always a good idea, but experimentation with honey and mustard could also prove to be excellent sauces to this preparation. Vegetables like cucumber or carrots will also compliment our fish, and basil as a garnish gives it a wonderful twist. Our masala is very versatile and can be used to create your own variations and the main purpose is not to just follow tradition but find interesting innovations that introduce us to new flavours and tastes. If you use whole fish, you can stuff the fish with this masala along with some chopped tomatoes and onions and some herbs and either steam or grill it. You imagination is the only limit. Do let us know of your efforts at [email protected] or else you can upload your recipe here.

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