Meen Pollichathu or Whole Fish cooked in Banana Leaf

fish cooked in banana leaf

Whole fish cooked in banana leaf is one of the delicacies of Kerala…

I love cooking with whole fish; when the fish is wrapped in banana leaf and cooked, it gets even more exciting. One of the delicious ways of cooking fish in Kerala is by slightly pan frying the whole fish and then wrapping the fish covered with masala in banana leaf. This dish is called “Meen Pollichathu” in Malayalam and is served at most of the fine Kerala restaurants and also served in house boats.

In house boats, they catch the fresh fish from the backwater (usually pearlspot) and cook it right away. It’s either fried or prepared this way. Pearlspot fishes are abundant in backwaters and are considered as one of the tastiest fishes. I couldn’t find pearlspot here, so I used fresh tilapia which are freshwater fish. I even managed to get frozen banana leaves from the Asian store. Making this meen pollichathu was the only thought I had and I hopped into the kitchen right away.

The banana leaves impart a nice aroma and flavor to the fish which makes it taste delicious.

Other whole fish recipes:

Pan fried Whole red snapper in coconut sauce

Shrimp Stuffed Tilapia


meen pollichathu

Preparation Pictures

Meen Pollichathu or Whole Fish cooked in Banana Leaf
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
  • Whole fish- 1, I used whole Tilapia
For marinating whole fish
  • Ginger-garlic paste- ½ tbsp
  • Chili powder- 2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder- ⅛ tsp
  • Coriander powder- 1½ tsp
  • Ground cumin- ½ tsp
  • Lemon juice- 1 tbsp
  • Salt- to taste
For making Masala
  • Coconut oil or vegetable oil- 1½ tbsp
  • Mustard seeds- 1 tsp
  • Whole red dry chili- 2
  • Onion, chopped thin and long- 3, large
  • Ginger, chopped- 2 inch slice
  • Garlic, chopped- 2 large cloves
  • Green chili, chopped- 1 or 2
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  • Tomatoes, chopped- 1, large
  • Garam Masala- ¾ tsp
  • Chili powder- ½ tsp to 1 tsp (add according to your needs)
  • Coriander powder- 1 tsp
  • Ground pepper- ⅛ tsp
  • Coconut milk- ½ cup
  • Salt- to taste
Other ingredients
  • Banana leaves- 2 large
  • Coconut oil- 3 tbsp, for pan frying fish
  • Curry leaves- 1 sprig
  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients mentioned for "marinating fish" make a thick paste by adding 1 or 2 tbsp of water.
  2. Have the cleaned whole fish ready. Put gashes on the fish.
  3. Spread the spice paste outside and inside the fish. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add 3 tbsp coconut oil and let it turn hot.
  5. Add curry leaves into the oil.
  6. Place the marinated whole fish on the pan, slightly pan fry both sides of the fish till it turns light golden in color. Don't over cook the fish.
  7. Transfer the pan fried fish onto a platter and keep aside.
  8. In the same pan used for pan frying the fish, add 1½ tbsp coconut oil.
  9. Add mustard seeds, let it splutter.
  10. Add whole dry red chilies and curry leaves, saute for a few seconds.
  11. Add chopped onions, season with salt and cook till translucent.
  12. Add chopped ginger, garlic and green chilies, combine well and cook till onions turn golden in color.
  13. Add chopped tomato, cook covered till it's mashed up.
  14. Add garam masala, chili powder, coriander powder and ground pepper, combine well and cook for a minute.
  15. Add coconut milk, mix well and cook for a few minutes till the gravy thickens.
  16. Taste and add more salt or chili powder if needed.
  17. Remove the pan from the heat.
To assemble the fish and masala
  1. Fish wrapped in banana leaf can be placed on a skillet and cooked over stovetop, keep covered with a lid and cook for 20 minutes.
  2. Oven cooking- Preheat the oven to 375 F.
  3. Rinse the banana leaves under running water, pat dry with a paper towel.
  4. If you want you could wilt the banana leaves by showing it over low heat.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  6. Place one large banana leaf over it.
  7. Evenly spread half of the prepared masala on the middle of the banana leaf.
  8. Place the pan fried whole fish over the masala.
  9. Spread the remaining masala over the fish.
  10. Cover the masala with another large banana leaf.
  11. Fold the leaves together and tightly wrap it. Tie with kitchen twine.
  12. I wrapped along with the aluminum foil as the leaves I used had many gaps.
  13. Place the baking sheet on the lower rack and bake for 20 minutes.
  14. Remove the baked fish from the oven, let cool down for a few minutes.
  15. Unwrap the banana leaves and serve the fish on the leaf itself.
  16. Serve with rice, chapati, orotti, idiyappam, appam, etc.
You could cook the fish wrapped in banana leaves over stove top.

Place the wrapped fish on a non-stick or cast iron skillet. Cover the skillet tightly.

Place the skillet over low heat and cook for 20 minutes.

After 10 minutes of cooking, flip the fish over and cook for another 10 more minutes.