Karimeen Pollichathu ~ Pearlspot in Banana Leaf

This post brings in a lot of nostalgia. I had already mentioned in a post earlier as to how umma and I had made it a point to go to have food in Keralite restaurants every weekend. Every weekend, we used to not fail to order one karimeen pollichathu. We always used to wonder how restaurants would get hold of such fresh pearl-spot when it was really difficult to get them in the market! Keeping our unwanted doubts aside, we both used to devour it to the last bit, even staring at each other to who would clean up the banana leaf and the fish bones at the end of the meal! Whoever had some spare porotta or vellapam in their plate would clean up the leaf and who was done would clean up the bone, that used to be the deal!
Now when I actually go to see, I have lost the mood of eating from outside. Going out with the kids on Thursdays when HD is extremely busy is not something that I enjoy, especially when Azza has “skate shoes” attached on her legs! With umma around, they used to be far disciplined but with me, maybe because they are concerned about my weight (darn!), both of them would drive me nuts! So going on Thursdays is literally out of my agenda these days unless and until it is an unavoidable trip. Somehow now I miss those Thursdays. I used to feel tired and just push myself up just for her, and now I don’t have any motivation to do so. Maybe with time, I will get used to this kind of a schedule or maybe when the kids grow up – which they are, so quickly! – it will get easier to go out with them and enjoy those meals. But coming to think about it, there is no fun in eating alone, isn’t it? πŸ™‚



This is one way of doing the pollichathu – which is basically steaming a partly fried fish with some onion masala in a banana leaf. The end result is just so good that you would end up literally licking the banana leaf as well! Though the process is slightly a bit long, it is quite easy to make and delicious to have. I am hoping to try with other fishes as well soon, though karimeen or pearlspot is always the best when made this way!



Steaming hot…




Karimeen Pollichathu ~ Pearlspot in Banana Leaf

Course Main
Cuisine Malabar
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 3
Author Rafeeda


  • 3 pearl spots karimeen, cleaned and washed
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • Coconut oil for shallow frying
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 cup shallots chopped
  • 2 medium onions minced
  • 2 inch pc ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 green chillies
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 large or 2 medium tomato chopped
  • 1 small pc tamarind or gamboge soaked in 1/2 cup hot water (optional but highly recommended)
  • 2 large banana leaf with center stalk taken out
  • Curry leaves for garnish


  • Mix ingredients from red chilli to salt into a paste. Draw slits on the "karimeen". Coat well on the fish and leave the marination for at least half an hour. The more you keep, the more the masala seeps into the fish.
  • Heat oil in a fry pan. Fry the fish on both the sides till browned. You do not need to fully cook the fish. Set aside.
  • In the same pan, add coconut oil. Fry the curry leaves briefly.
  • Add the shallots and onions and saute till browned.
  • In a mortar and pestle, crush the ginger, garlic and green chillies and add into the onion mixture. Saute till the raw smell is gone.
  • Add the masala powders and saute till fried. Sprinkle some water to avoid sticking at the bottom.
  • Finally add the tomato and cook till the tomatoes get mashed up.
  • If using the tamarind/ gamboge, squeeze into the water well. Discard the residue and pour the water in along with the tomato.
  • Wash the banana leaf well and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Light up the flame and run the banana leaf on top of it till stiff. Hold it just close enough for the heat to touch and ensure not to burn. You will notice the leaf becoming slightly dullish green and stiff. Do this for all the three pieces cut.
  • Place some masala in the banana leaf, then put the fish and rub some more masala on the top. Wrap the pack, just like how you would do with a newspaper.
  • Tie it tightly using a twig, or with the center stalk like I did.
  • Heat a chapathi tawa or a fry pan. Once heated, keep on medium flame and put the wrap on it. Cook on closed lid for 10 minutes on one side, flip and cook for another 10 minutes. Not necessary that the leaf needs to be charred, but ensure that it changes its color.
  • Serve as is in a plate. To enjoy it, open the twig, carefully remove the wrap. Using a fork - or leave it, your hands if it is cool enough to handle - push out the soft pieces of fish and enjoy with some Kerala porattas, chapathis or even rice!


Cooking the masala in the same pan as the fish is fried with amp up the flavor a lot. But you can cook them separately and add the remaining fried oil into the masala as well.
The tamarind is optional, but I find it adding so much flavor to the masala.
If you find the masala too spicy, add a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk at the end to settle it down.
Instead of using the chapathi tawa, you can bake the parcels! Rub a little coconut oil on a baking tray, layer them and bake them in a preheated 180 degrees oven for 10-12 minutes.
You can use any meaty fish instead of karimeen - king fish, pomfret, hamour works wonderful!

Join the Conversation

    1. Thank you so much Rumana…

  1. nice way to cook fish in leaf. looks delicious

    1. Thank you so much Linsy…

  2. Lovely recipe and looks delicious!

    1. Thank you so much Priya…

    1. Thank you so much Beena…

    1. Thank you so much Ramya…

  3. What an explosion of flavors. I love it and with fish, my hub will jump high up.

    1. Thank you so much Nava…

    1. Thanks a lot Remya…

  4. Looks so delicious! Never had it before, would love to have a taste!

    1. Thank you so much Beulah…

    1. Thanks a lot Lisha…

  5. THey look flavorful and yummy .What a energy and enthu u got rafee ..

    1. Thank you so much Sathya…

  6. OMG,my mouth is watering rafs πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you so much Babitha…

    1. Thanks a lot Jaleela…

  7. lovely….looks like need sum time to make..but tempting u know

    1. Thank you so much Usha…

  8. Karimeen pollichathu is my to do list since ages, i dunno when am going to make some, just drooling.

    1. You must try soon akka… u will love them! Thanks a lot…

  9. Drooling over this, I stl can't forget the taste of karimeen pollichachu frm kuttanadu……….Thanx Rafee for sharing the recipe…………btw, I tried ur fereni no wonder, it gt finished on dat very day itself…………….

    1. Thank you so much for trying and letting me know… so glad you liked it!!!

  10. ente vayyil kappal odikkaam,Rafee…yummy,love this !!

    1. Thank you so much Julie…

  11. looking a very different recipe πŸ™‚ worth trying

    1. It's a backwater special Monu… thanks a lot… πŸ™‚

  12. my favourite…. looks delicious dear…..

    1. Thank you so much Femi…

  13. I can't take my eyes out ,so good,mouth watering

    1. Thank you so much Jayanthi…

  14. Looks so tempting.. Love this

    1. Thank you so much Gloria…

  15. They look delicious!!

    I waited so long to make this during summer on the grill, its fall now and getting chilly outside. I have to try it on the outside grill for sure!!

    1. Thank you so much Shibi…

  16. just love this …drooling here.

    1. Thank you so much Ruxana….

  17. I could two now…. Beautifully done dear

    1. Thank you so much Sherin…

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