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Fish in Banana leaf: Patra ni Maachi Recipe with photos
Parsi Fish Recipe
Parsis are known for their love of all things FOOD! They live to eat non vegetarian cuisine and even consider eggs to be vegetarian. Fish is a staple part of their diet in Mumbai and in Gujarat strongholds along the coast. The Fish is even considered a good omen in the "Chalk" or white rangoli that they use to decorate their entrances.
This is a genuine Parsi recipe for Patrani Macchi or Patra ni maachi as different variants work out in translating the spelling to English. "Patra" is the Gujarati word for leaf and "Macchi" means fish. So Patra - ni- macchi literally means fish in leaf. The leaf here being from the banana tree.
Essentially it is steamed fish seasoned with coconut chutney and wrapped in banana leaf. The usual fish used for this recipe is pomfret, but here we used an imported fish fillet that had absolutely no bones. You can use any fish you like. The process works well on almost any meat. I have tried it with boneless chicken and that came out superb as well.
Patrani Macchi- The Final Product
How to make the Coconut Chutney
Ingredients for the fresh, homemade Coconut Chutney
Scrapings of One Coconut
150 gms fresh corriander leaves roughly chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 inch piece of ginger peeled and cut
1 spoon of roasted cumin powder (Jeera)
Optional : Green chillies to taste
Put everything into the blender together and blend.
Note : This coconut chutney is really good for sandwich fixings. You can use it on its own or add mayonnaise to one slice and the chutney to the other. Comes out amazing.
- 1/2 kg Boneless Fish Fillet
- 2 cups Coconut Chutney, Check recipe in box
- 2 Banana Leaves
- 2-3 spoons Oil
- Salt, to taste
Banana leaf prep
Homemade Coconut Chutney
Steaming Fish in Banana Leaf
- Get the fresh banana leaves and wash them nicely. In our case my mom has a banana tree in the garden so we just went out and plucked a couple of leaves. However your usual vegetable vendor should be able to get some for you if you put in a request. Make sure you use the green leaves and not the yellowing ones. Those don't fare too well in the steaming process.
- Once you have removed any dirt on the leaves by washing them thoroughly use a knife or a scissors if you are more comfortable with them to cut them up. Each leaf must first be sliced in half and then depending on the length of the leaf made into two or three pieces. Remember you will be wrapping your pieces of fish in the leaves and need them to be large enough to cover the pieces adequately.
- Once the leaves have been cut down to manageable sizes you need to cut the fish. Its up to you to size the fish as you like. In this case my mom made the pieces into squares of three by three inches. And of course these fish fillet are totally boneless as we hate digging out bones from the fish while eating.
- Making the COCONUT Chutney - Take one small coconut, 4-5 cloves of garlic, about 150gm or two handfuls of fresh green coriander leaves, juice of one lemon, one inch piece of ginger, one green chilli, and add it all to the wet grinder. Make a fine paste out of the ingredients. You may need to use a little water in addition to the lemon juice to get a fine paste. In the end add the dry cumin powder and give it one final spin in the mixer. Once you have taken it out you will need to squeeze out any additional water from the chutney and discard it. The coconut chutney must be thick when used in the dish. Too much moisture content will make the fish all runny and messy to open after the steaming. Note - The discarded chutney water can be used to spice up other curries that you may make. It will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. It is also useful if you wish to grind up some Hara Masala or green paste for cooking a curry.
- Now comes the fun part : Making the fish packets. First we put down a piece of banana leaf on to the counter. Then we dip our fingers in the oil and spread it around on the banana leaf so that the fish and chutney do not stick to it.
- Next we plop some coconut chutney onto the banana leaf in the center and place the single fish piece on the bed of chutney. The fish piece is then covered with another generous dollop of green coconut chutney and the banana leaf is folded over it. Traditionally cotton string is used to tie up the banana leaf packets, but my mom just folds them over and places them in the dish in which they are to be steamed.
- The dish is loaded with all the banana leaf packets and set on the gas stove for steaming. The actual cooking time is just five minutes. When you open a packet to test if the fish is done the pink flesh would have turned white. Serve steaming hot.
There is no need to add extra water to steam the fish. The run off from the coconut chutney as the fish cooks is more than sufficient to generate the required steam. It will run out of the banana leaf packets but that is fine and will not affect the fish. If you add more water the fish taste will get diluted and that is not good.
More about the Parsis
The Parsis as essentially the Zoroastrian minority settled in India. They have a unique culture that blends their Persian roots with their Indian habitat. Their food is heavy and wholesome.
If you are interested in learning more about the Parsis and their food and their customs, the book to the left is highly recommend. The recipes and the traditions that they are used in are clearly explained by a master chef!
It is the "go to" book for the younger generation who may not have all the ceremonial rites down pat. The food and the ceremonial proceedings are very well described and explained in this book.
Special Occasions To Serve Patra ni Macchi
Fish is considered an auspicious sign and food by the Parsis. That is why most celebratory feasts or Jashans are sure to have a healthy serving of fish. The star dish is usually Patra ni Macchi while there are other typically Parsi recipes that are served.
Patrani Maachi in the Plate
Thank you Momma!
Sorry the last photo wasn't too steady.
I blame the aroma of the fish!
And trust me when I say that it was delicious.