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Kerala Style Meen Pollichathu or Whole Fish Cooked in Banana Leaf & Steamed | Popular Recipe


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 houseboats.

In houseboats, 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 whole pomfret. 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 & will make the dish incredibly delicious.

Other whole fish recipes:

Pan fried Whole red snapper in coconut sauce

Shrimp Stuffed Tilapia

Cooking Video


Meen Pollichathu or Whole Fish cooked in Banana Leaf
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
  • Whole fish- 1 (Pomfret or Tilapia)
For marinating whole fish
  • Kashmiri Chili powder- 1 tbsp
  • Chili powder- 1 tsp
  • Ground black pepper- ½ tsp
  • Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  • Coriander powder- 2 tsp
  • Lemon juice- 3 tbsp
  • Salt- 2 tsp
  • Water- 2 to 3 tbsp
For making Gravy
  • Coconut oil- 3 tbsp
  • Ginger, crushed- 1 tbsp
  • Garlic, crushed- 1 tbsp
  • Green chili, chopped- 1 or 2
  • Curry leaves- 10 leaves
  • Shallots, sliced thin- 4 ( Or add pearl onions or small onions- 10)
  • Tomatoes, chopped- 2, large
  • Kashmiri chili powder- 1 tsp (add according to your needs)
  • Coriander powder- 2 tsp
  • Garam Masala- ½ tsp
  • Tomato paste- 3 tbsp
  • Coconut milk- 1 cup
  • Salt- 1 tsp
Other ingredients
  • Banana leaves- 2 large
  • Coconut oil- ½ cup , 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 water.
  2. Have the cleaned whole fish ready. Add some lines on the fish.
  3. Spread the marinade outside and inside the fish. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
  4. Place a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add ½ cup coconut oil and let oil turn hot.
  5. Add curry leaves to the oil.
  6. Place the marinated whole fish on the pan, slightly pan fry both sides of the fish till golden in color. Don't over cook the fish.
  7. Transfer the pan-fried fish onto a platter and keep aside.
  8. To the same pan used for pan-frying the fish, add 3 tbsp coconut oil.
  9. Add ginger, garlic, curry leaves & green chilies, saute for 3 minutes.
  10. Add shallots, season with salt and cook till light golden in color.
  11. Add chopped tomato, cook till tomatoes have mashed up.
  12. Add chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala & tomato paste; combine well and cook for 2 minutes.
  13. Add coconut milk, mix well, cook for a few minutes till the gravy thickens.
  14. Taste and add more salt or chili powder if needed.
  15. Remove the pan from the heat. Keep aside the gravy.
To assemble the fish and gravy & steam cook
  1. Rinse the banana leaves under running water, pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Wilt the banana leaves by showing it over low heat.
  3. Place a couple of banana leaves on a plate.
  4. Evenly spread half of the prepared gravy on the center of the banana leaf.
  5. Place the pan-fried whole fish over the gravy.
  6. Spread the remaining gravy over the fish.
  7. Cover the fish with banana leaves.
  8. Fold the leaves together and tightly wrap it. If needed tie with kitchen twine.
  9. On a large pan add 1 cup water. Place a stand on the pan.
  10. Place the wrapped fish on the stand.
  11. Cover the pan with a lid.
  12. Place over medium heat, steam cook for 15 minutes.
  13. After 15 minutes of cooking, remove the pan from the heat.
  14. Unwrap the banana leaves and serve the fish on the leaf itself.
  15. Serve with rice, chapati, orotti, idiyappam, appam, etc.
This can be baked in the oven at 375 F.
Place the wrapped fish on a baking sheet & bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.




Thas is the author of Cooking with Thas, a popular food blog with recipes from Indian, American and Fusion Cuisines. She has been blogging since 2009 and been featured in several magazines. Read more...