Sardine roasted in Banana leaf served with boiled Tapioca

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A sumptuous, mouthwatering Kerala delicacy: Meen and Kappa ie,  Fish and Boiled Tapioca.

One of the amazing things about growing up in Kerala( the most beautiful and serene state in India) is the inseparable connection we have with fish. If you are a non-veg and if you happen to be in Kerala, you can definitely devour fish everyday, that too the catch of the day. This is what I miss here in the US, it’s impossible to get the fish which is caught on the same day and to cook the fish with all its freshness. And there, we can either go the fish market to get the fresh fish or the people who sell the fish would come to our house with the catch of the day. To my house, everyday a lady came with the fish, she would literally walk miles from house to house, with her basket of fish, which was placed on her head until she sold all the fish. On weekends, when I was home, I made sure to chat with her while she cleaned up the fish. Yup, she helped us in cleaning the fish too. It was amazing to see how artistically she cleaned up the fish, and she would do it in just matter of seconds.  When the season for particular fishes arrive we even made special requests way ahead to that lady, to get us the freshest catch. Always my request would be for crabs, mussels and shrimp, which I love the most and she never failed to get these for me, that was so sweet of her.

We get many kinds of fishes in Kerala and there are different kinds of preparation methods. Even I am ignorant about many of the fishes and many of the preparation methods. But one cooking method almost everyone is aware of is the roasting the fish which is wrapped in banana leaves. This is mostly done with the fish: Karimeen or pearl spot, which is a backwater fish and which could be seen on the menu of all fine dining restaurants. This is an authentic Kerala dish.

I had made with pearl spot once, due to the lack of availability I couldn’t make it again, so I tried this recipe with other fishes, any fish would literally work. Some of the fishes good for making this is whole Tilapia, Whole Sardines, king fish fillet, Whole red snapper etc. After seasoning the fish with some spices, it is given a shallow fry. Then we will make a gravy and roast the fish along with the gravy wrapped in banana leaf.  While roasting, the aroma of the banana leaf would get into the fish and the fish would taste incredible.

Mostly fish is served with boiled tapioca or cassava or yuca root. In Kerala, this dish is complete only when it is served with tapioca. Unlike in the US, tapioca is very cheap and widely available in kerala. When we buy tapioca in kerala, they would break the ends of the tapioca and show us that it is good and not spoiled inside.  But, here nobody would break the ends and show us, before I used to just get the tapioca without even looking whether it is good or not. Only after I peel off the skin and start slicing it, I would realize that I am deceived by its attractive shiny outside look. So to make sure to not to get fooled anymore , I do a small trick, I would scratch the narrow end of the tapioca, so that I can see the inside, if it is pure white in color, it is good one and I would get it right away.

Here is the recipe for fish roasted in banana leaf and seasoned boiled tapioca for all the fish lovers out there. I made this with whole sardines, it was really good. You could try with any whole fish. If you have pearl spot, then it would be perfect for this recipe. If you don’t have plantain leaf, you could use aluminum foil instead, it works but you would miss out the aroma from the banana leaf.

Fish roasted in banana leaf:

Ingredients:

  • Whole sardines with head on, cleaned, washed with salt water several times and put 3/4 gashes/lines on it- 5

For marination:

  • Chili powder- 3 tsp
  • Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
  • Ginger/Garlic paste-1/2 tbsp
  • Ground Pepper-1/2 tsp
  • Lemon juice-juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt- to taste
Instruction:

Marinate the fish with all the above ingredients, keep it aside for 30 minutes or longer the better (you could even marinate overnight in the refrigerator).

For shallow frying the fish:

  • Coconut oil or vegetable oil- 1/4 cup
Preparation:
  • In a non-stick pan, shallow fry the fish in oil, it should be moist and soft, avoid deep frying the fish.

For making Gravy:

  • Small onions- 20, chopped
  • Ginger chopped- 1 tsp
  • Garlic chopped- 1/2 tsp
  • Green chilies chopped- 2
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
  • Chili powder- 1/2  to 1 tsp
  • Thick Coconut milk- 1/4 cup
  • Salt- to taste
  • Coconut oil-2 tbsp

Preparations:

  • In a deep bottomed skillet, saute small onions, add ginger/garlic/ green chilies and curry leaves. Cook until it turns golden brown.
  • Now add turmeric powder and chili powder, stir well.
  • Reduce the heat to low, add the coconut milk , if the coconut milk is too thick add a little water to it.
  • Combine with the masala, cook for a minute and remove from the flame. Don’t boil the coconut milk.

Final roasting in banana leaf:

  • Banana leaves- enough for individually wrapping 5 sardines.

Preparation:

  • Wash the leaves and pat dry it. Slightly wilt the leaves by showing them carefully over the low flame of a gas range. Be careful not to burn them unduly. Wipe with a damp kitchen cloth or paper towel.
  • On the middle of the banana leaf, make a bed with 2-3 tbsp of gravy, place one of the fishes on top of the gravy, then top it with more of the gravy.
  • Wrap the banana leaf. In order to wrap the banana leaf tightly, you could even cover the banana leaf with aluminum foil and wrap it. This would keep the banana leaf in place. Wrap all the fishes like this.
  • You can roast in the oven or on stove top.

Roasting in the oven:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the wrapped fishes on a baking sheet and roast it for 20 minutes.

Roasting on stove top:

  • On a large flat pan or tawa, place the wrapped fishes, close it with the lid and cook for 15-20 minutes on low flame.
  • Serve the fish wrapped in banana leaf.

Seasoned boiled Tapioca or Yuca root Recipe

  • Tapioca- 2, peeled and sliced into cubes
  • Water- for boiling
  • Salt- to taste

For seasoning:

  • Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Whole red dry chilies-3
  • Curry leaves-  1 sprig
  • Grated Coconut- 1/4 cup
  • Coconut oil- 1 tbsp
Preparation:
  • Boil the tapioca in enough water seasoned with salt. Cook till gets fork tender.
  • Drain any excess water and keep it aside, avoid mashing the tapioca.
  • Heat a pan, add the oil let it turn hot, add mustard seeds, when it starts to splutter, add red chilies and curry leaves.
  • Now, add the boiled tapioca and give it a stir.
  • Add the grated coconut to this and stir fry it until the mixture gets dry and coconut starts to turn golden brown.
  • Serve immediately with the fish.

Tips:

  • You  could even serve the fish along with rice.
  • If you don’t have banana leaves, use aluminium foil instead.

 

Sardine roasted in Banana leaf served with boiled Tapioca
 
Ingredients
  • Whole sardines with head on, cleaned, washed with salt water several times and put ¾ gashes/lines on it-5
For marination
  • Chili powder- 3 tsp
  • Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
  • Ginger/Garlic paste-1 tsp
  • Ground Pepper-1/2 tsp
  • Lemon juice-juice of ½ lemon
  • Salt- to taste
For shallow frying the fish
  • Coconut oil or vegetable oil- ¼ cup
For making Gravy
  • Small onions- 20, chopped
  • Ginger chopped- 1 tsp
  • Garlic chopped- ½ tsp
  • Green chilies chopped- 2
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  • Chili powder- ½ to 1 tsp
  • Thick Coconut milk- ¼ cup
  • Salt- to taste
  • Coconut oil-2 tbsp
Seasoned boiled Tapioca or Yuca root Recipe
  • Tapioca- 2, peeled and sliced into cubes
  • Water- for boiling
  • Salt- to taste
For seasoning
  • Mustard seeds- ½ tsp
  • Whole red dry chilies-3
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Grated Coconut- ¼ cup
  • Coconut oil- 1 tbsp
Instructions
  1. Marinate the fish with all the above ingredients, keep it aside for 30 minutes or longer the better (you could even marinate overnight in the refrigerator).
For Frying The Fish
  1. In a non-stick pan, shallow fry the fish in oil, it should be moist and soft, avoid deep frying the fish.
Making The Gravy
  1. In a deep bottomed skillet, saute small onions, add ginger/garlic/ green chilies and curry leaves. Cook until it turns golden brown.
  2. Now add turmeric powder and chili powder, stir well.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, add the coconut milk , if the coconut milk is too thick add a little water to it.
  4. Combine with the masala, cook for a minute and remove from the flame. Don't boil the coconut milk.
Final roasting in banana leaf
  1. Banana leaves- enough for individually wrapping 5 sardines.
  2. Wash the leaves and pat dry it. Slightly wilt the leaves by showing them carefully over the low flame of a gas range. Be careful not to burn them unduly. Wipe with a damp kitchen cloth or paper towel.
  3. On the middle of the banana leaf, make a bed with 2-3 tbsp of gravy, place one of the fishes on top of the gravy, then top it with more of the gravy.
  4. Wrap the banana leaf. In order to wrap the banana leaf tightly, you could even cover the banana leaf with aluminum foil and wrap it. This would keep the banana leaf in place. Wrap all the fishes like this.
  5. You can roast in the oven or on stove top.
Roasting in the oven
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the wrapped fishes on a baking sheet and roast it for 20 minutes.
Roasting on stove top:
  1. On a large flat pan or tawa, place the wrapped fishes, close it with the lid and cook for 15-20 minutes on low flame.
  2. Serve the fish wrapped in banana leaf.
Cooking Tapioca
  1. Boil the tapioca in enough water seasoned with salt. Cook till gets fork tender.
  2. Drain any excess water and keep it aside, avoid mashing the tapioca.
  3. Heat a pan, add the oil let it turn hot, add mustard seeds, when it starts to splutter, add red chilies and curry leaves.
  4. Now, add the boiled tapioca and give it a stir.
  5. Add the grated coconut to this and stir fry it until the mixture gets dry and coconut starts to turn golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately with the fish.
Notes
You could even serve the fish along with rice.
If you don't have banana leaves, use aluminium foil instead.

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