Avoli Pollichathu – Pomfret fried in banana leaf

I have been craving Karimeen  ( Pearl spot) for some time now. Everytime I go to India, my mom makes the most delicious Karimeen and mango curry. The taste is so unique that you could have an entire plateful of rice with just the gravy alone. I had often heard of karimeen pollichathu, but never had a chance to taste it. My cousins always spoke about having had it at the “shappu” which means toddy shop. But being the “eaters” rather than the “cookers’ in the family, they could not explain the taste or the underlying funda of the dish.

It was Easter and I was planning to try out the karimeen pollichathu. But as luck would have it, the Indian fish shop had sold out and there was none available. My hubby who went with specific instructions to buy  Karimeen came back home with a bag of “Avoli” or Black Pomfret, cleaned and chopped a perfect slice for the grill. I decided to go ahead with the plan, just that the hero of the movie had been replaced. Pomfret was in and Pearlspot was out. And the heroine was “moi”..!!



  • Karutha Avoli / Black Pomfret – 5 big slices
  • Red chili powder – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt
For the gravy
  • Mustard seeds – 1 pinch
  • Uluva / Fenugreek seeds – 3 pinches
  • Small Red Onions chopped – 1 cup
  • Curry leaf – 2 sprigs
  • Green chilies – 3 to 5
  • Garlic – 5
  • Ginger – 1 big piece
  • Tomato – 1 medium sized
  • Chili powder – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Coriander powder – 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 Tbsp
  • Coconut Milk – 1/3 cup
  • Marinate the fish pieces with the Red Chili powder, turmeric powder and salt.
  • Keep aside for 2 to 3 hours. Fry lightly in oil and keep aside.
  • During this time, clean the banana leaves well.  Wash and dry the leaves.
  • Light the burner of your stove. Move the banana leaf up and down through the flame. You will notice the color of the leaf changing to a shade darker, when you expose it to heat. Keep aside. This process makes the leaf more flexible and easier to bend and pack without tearing it. This process is called  “vazhailla vattunnu”.
  • Also soak the kudampulli in 1/2 cup of water. Keep aside.
For the gravy
  • Take a deep pan. Pour some oil and heat it. Splutter the mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds.
  •  Toss in th curry leaf  and garlic followed by the small onions, ginger and green chilies. Saute well.
  • Now add the tomato and cook well till the tomato is cooked through and all mashed up.
  • Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder and salt. Mix well.
  • Now add the water in which we have soaked the kokum (kodupulli) and the lemon juice. Mix well. This provides the slight sourness to the dish.
  • Add the coconut milk and bring the gravy to a boil. the gravy should not be watery. It should be thick and spreadable. Boil the gravy and bring to this consistency.
  • Take a banana leaf. Spread a little gravy on the leaf. Place a piece of fish on top of the gravy. Keep a little more gravy on top of the fish. Now fold up the banana leaf with the fish inside, like an envelope. Seal the packet with thread. Repeat with the rest of the fish.
  • Take a frying pan and add 1/4 cup oil to this. Once the oil is hot, arrange the fish packets on the oil, in the frying pan. Cover and let it cook for 10 minutes on each side. The gravy should have covered the fish and become a shade of brown, more like a soft crust on the fish. the fish will be soft and perfectly cooked.
  • Serve each packet with some salad and slices of lime.
The taste was just amazing. The ingredients are in perfect harmony and the fish is soft and wonderfully cooked. It is pure bliss in each bite. Try it…!!
This is my entry to The Kerala kitchen hosted by Ria .

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