Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meen (Ayala) Elayil Varuthathu - Fish fried in banana/plantain leaf

There have been times in the past when a certain remark in the comment section sparks an idea for my next post... on one occasion it took me down the memory lane making me write about the simplest things from our kitchen and on another, it helped me rekindle the memories of my childhood and recreate the forgotten taste. This time, it is neither about a dish nor a recipe but to introduce a couple of old world techniques to some out there, who may not be aware of the same.

On my previous post, Small talk left a message saying," .........Just a tip : Taste can be enhanced and oil used can be reduced by wrapping fish in plantain leaf and griddling it on a tava and later shallow fryng it in oil....Doing this nt only seals on juices of the fish inside bt reduces oil used drastically....." .

Though I have been using a similar technique occasionally - especially those days when both of us found out that we have to keep a tab on our cholesterol levels - to reduce the quantity of oil while frying , it never occurred to me that I should make a post on it. But after reading her comment, especially the part about taste enhancement and reduction in the use of oil, I thought it is a good idea to bring this old world technique into the limelight. I started using this method about two years back as both of us could not appreciate the taste of baked fish and continued to crave for that pan fried fish and that's when my mother gave me this idea for frying the fish on fresh banana or plantain leaves.

The technique suggested by Small talk is a very healthy alternative and works well with fatty as well as non fatty fish. Our method is slightly different from the one Small Talk has mentioned. In her's you can control the oil to a large extent and yet get that oily crispy outer texture by pan frying in oil in the final phase after the initial steaming or roasting where the fish gets cooked in its fat and juice.

The method we follow is slightly different. We wilt the banana/plantain leaves on the heat for 2-3 seconds and then place the wilted leaf on a well heated cast iron or non stick griddle; then place the fish pieces on a single layer (not stacked); drizzle some cooking oil on fish pieces as well as the leaf and let it cook/fry in medium-high, with the lid covered, for about 3-4 minutes. Now reduce the heat to medium and when one side is cooked well, flip the fish and cook the other side. If you want a crispy exterior, you can flip one more time ( after both the sides cooked) and at this stage, remove the lid and let it cook /fry , until you get the crispy texture you aim for. Based on my experience, this method works well with fatty fish as fish releases its natural fat/oil, allowing us to use lesser quantity of oil. If you re using small variety of fish like sardines, then you need not close with lid while cooking; use lid only if it is a thick cut fish like king fish or Indian mackerel or salmon.

Both these techniques enhance the taste as the fresh banana/plantain leaf lends a subtle earthy flavour and aroma to the fried fish.

Prathibha of Rhythm of Life has shared another tasty alternative and that's by roasting the fish marinated with spice mixture and wrapped in banana/plantain leaves , on a bed of coal aka "kanal". It is an old world technique to bake fish but a very tasty alternative provided your kitchen has the place and potential to use coal :)

Small Talk & Rhythm of Life, Thanks a bunch for sharing such healthy and tasty cooking methods :)

You may use any of the recipes listed below to make your favourite fish fry:

Pepper Fish Fry Mathi Varuthath Pepper Fish Fry


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