Through this journey I have come across amazing similarities in food cultures and how recipes travelled and got influenced by ingredients and cooking methods of the people and places they reached.
Cooking food in banana leaves is one such interesting method that ties together many regional cuisines. As the leaves are large, flexible and water proof, they make excellent environment friendly substitute for plastic plates. They have been used for centuries in the traditional dishes of Indian, South East Asian, Mexican, Caribbean, Polynesian and Central American cultures to wrap and steam food inside them or serve food over them.
Macher Paturi is a Bengali delicacy that uses banana leaves to wrap and steam fish marinated in mustard sauce. It resembles a lot the Sri Lankan style lamprais which are parcels of rice and meat wrapped and baked in a banana leaf. Traditionally Macher Paturi is steamed in a steamer or double boiler but since banana leaves are pretty good at keeping the steam inside, I directly place the parcels in a lightly greased pan and simply cover the pan to steam them. This method is quicker and hassle free.
The mildly woody smell of the banana leaf mingled with the unmistakable aroma of mustard and fish are hard to resist. They say you eat with your eyes first, but in this case, it is the aroma of the fish inside these warm parcels that shall get you hooked. The flavour is a big punch of salty and sour with mild sweetness from coconut.
If you can’t get edible mustard oil where you live, you can substitute it with olive oil.
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoon desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 green chilli peppers
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 big banana leaf, tender and flexible
2 tablespoons mustard or olive oil
This Is What You Do:
Cut boneless fish into bite sized chunks. Rub the mustard paste all over them.
Remove the middle hard stem from the banana leaf. Cut it into 6 rectangular shapes, big enough to make fish parcels.
Place 3-4 chunks of fish in each parcel. Fold the leaf around them as if wrapping a parcel. Tie each parcel with a string.
Lightly grease a frying pan (better non stick) with the remaining oil.
Place the parcels in the pan. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook on very low heat for 5 minutes. Flip the sides of the parcels and cook again another 5 minutes.
Remove the string before serving. Serve warm with steamed rice.