Guide to making the classic Kerala Karimeen Pollichathu or pearl spot fish cooked in banana leaves at home

Guide to making the classic Kerala Karimeen Pollichathu or pearl spot fish cooked in banana leaves at home

A blend of spices, this popular dish is sought out for its cooking technique and taste

Here's how you can make Karimeen Pollichathu at home Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

When in Kerala, Karimeen Pollichathu is a must try. This spiced, fried and tasty dish is often served wrapped in a banana leaf or what is natively known as vazhay-ila. This is done to preserve the aroma and flavours of the spiced fish, after it is fried using coconut oil. While variations of this dish are made with alternatives like pomfret, the fresh water pearl spot fish is a better option for those looking to try out this recipe at home.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6



  1. 1 kg Karimeen or Pearl Spot Fish
  2. 1 tsp garlic paste
  3. 1 tsp lemon juice
  4. 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  5. ½ pepper powder
  6. ½ turmeric powder
  7. 1 tsp coconut oil
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 2 tbsp water


  1. 100 gms shallots
  2. 400 gms onion
  3. 4 tomatoes
  4. 1 tbsp ginger paste
  5. 2 spring curry leaves
  6. 1 tsp garlic paste
  7. 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  8. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  9. ½ tsp pepper powder
  10. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  11. 1 tsp lemon juice
  12. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  13. 2 tbsp water
  14. Salt to taste
  15. Banana leaves


Step 1: After washing and cleaning the fish thoroughly, cut a few slits on the fish for the spices to immerse well.

Step 2: Marinate the fish with garlic paste, lemon juice, Kashmiri chilli powder, pepper powder, turmeric powder, salt and coconut oil, and leave it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Marinate the fish Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 3: Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan. Shallow fry the marinated fish for 3 minutes on each side. Once fried, turn off the flame and keep it aside on a plate to cool.

Time to fry the fish Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 4: Take another pan and heat two tablespoons of coconut oil. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds and allow it to splutter.

Step 5: Next, add the chopped shallots and onion and sauté it till they turn soft and golden brown. It may take about 6 minutes, so you can add a teaspoon of salt to speed up the process.

Add the mustard seeds, chopped shallots and onion and allow it to splutter ... Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 5: Add a teaspoon of garlic paste, ginger paste and three crushed green chillies. Sauté for another 2 minutes.

Step 6: Next, add the chopped tomatoes and stir the mix till the tomatoes are cooked and juicy.

Step 7: Add red chilli powder, coriander powder, pepper powder, turmeric powder and lemon juice. Mix well and cook for 6 minutes on a medium flame with its lid closed. Add in the curry leaves as well.

Step 8: Add ¼ cup of thick coconut milk to thicken the gravy. Stir it for another 30 seconds and then turn off the flame.

Your gravy should look like this once cooked ... Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 9: Clean the banana leaves and place it on top of the flame for two to three seconds. This is done to wilt the leaves hence making it soft and less brittle and prone to tearing whilst wrapping the fish.

Step 10: Place the wilted banana leaf on a large plate. Scoop out a little bit of the cooked gravy and place it on the centre of the leaf. Place the fried fish on top and cover the fish with another scoop of gravy.

Time to start plating ... on a leaf Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 11: Wrap the fish and its spices with the leaf into a packet and secure it with a string. Do the same with the other fried fish pieces.

Wrap it up and secure it with a string Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 12: Place the prepared packets on a thick-bottom pan and cook each side for four minutes on a low flame by closing the lid. This will allow the flavour of the banana leaf to permeate into the dish placed within it.

Allow it to sit for 4-5 minutes in a closed pan so to enhance the flavour a little more Image Credit: Supplied/Sobha Varghese

Step 13: Serve hot with steamed rice.

Note: In case Karimeen is not available you can also use Pomfret, Kingfish, Tilapia etc.

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