Monday, September 27, 2010

Patra Ni Maach

Patra-Ni-Maach literally translates to 'fish in a leaf'. This traditional Parsi delicacy is made with Hilsa variety of fish which is abundant in bones and taste. Pomfret is also used by some. These varieties of fish are not easily available here in Canada, so I use salmon. Seabass works just as beautifully.

Fish is marinated in a green marinade (chutney of sorts) made of mint, coriander, and coconut and then wrapped in banana leaves. In the banana leaf, it is cooked in one of three different ways -- steaming, baking or pan frying. You can find banana leaves in Indian and Thai grocery stores. If they are difficult to find, use parchment paper or aluminum foil. Banana leaf locks in the flavor and allows the steam to build up to delicately cook the fish while protecting it from breaking down. When cooked, these parcels go directly from the stove to the plate. Opening a tiny green leaf parcel to reveal a perfectly cooked fragrant and flavorful piece of fish on your plate is really cool and rustic. The first time I had patra-ni-maachi in a restaurant, I found it rather charming.

Patra-Ni-Maach is made on special occasions such as weddings and is often served over a bed of rice. Here I serve over lemon rice (Nimbekai Chitranna), with a side of crunchy coconut salad that has the same coastal flavor theme and complements the fish wonderfully. The crunchiness of the coconut and peanuts and the tangy sourness of lime juice gives an explosion of textures and flavors together in the mouth. Do try this dish sometimes, it is truly a wonderful experience.


1/4 cup each fresh mint and coriander leaves
1/2 cup fresh desiccated coconut
2 cloves of garlic
lime juice
salt and red chili powder
4 Salmon fillets
  1. Banana leaves cleaned and dry (if available) or aluminum foil cut into 8x8 inch squares 
  2. Put the first five ingredients in a blender and make a fine paste, almost like a chutney. 
  3. Smear the chutney all over the salmon fillets and keep aside for 15 minutes. Since the marinade is acidic, any more marination will start to break down the fish. 
  4. Spread banana leaves (or foil) and place the fish fillets in the center. 
  5. Wrap these into tiny bundles. If using banana leaves then you can tie the bundles with a string or secure with a toothpick so they don't open while cooking. 
  6. Steam the fish bundles for 10-15 min till fish is cooked thru. OR bake at 350°F for 10 - 12 minutes making sure you don't overcook, otherwise fish will get tough. 
  7. You can also stick it under the broiler for 2 min to brown the top, but it's completely optional. 
  8. Serve hot in packets for everyone to open with a side of lemon rice and crunchy coconut, peanut salad (recipe follows).
Coconut and peanut salad
1 head Romaine lettuce shredded
2 large Carrots grated
1 Cucumber chopped into small chunks
1 cup Fresh coconut grated
1/2 cup Peanuts
Lime juice and rind of 2 limes
Chaat masala (optional)
Olive oil
Mustard seeds
Salt to taste
  1. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. 
  2. In a small pan heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and when hot add the mustard seeds. Cover with a lid and remove from heat. the seeds will splatter and make a popping sound. when the sound stops open the lid and add the hot concoction to the salad. Stir well. 
  3. In the same pan heat a teaspoon of olive oil and stir in the peanuts. roast on medium high for 5 minutes constantly stirring till they impart a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and mix in chaat masala. Chaat masala is salty and tangy and available in all Indian grocery stores. I believe it is an acquired taste so use sparingly if you do decide to use it.  
  4. When ready to serve, add the roasted peanuts, salt to taste and lime juice along with the grated rind into the salad. Stir well and enjoy.


  1. Nice one . This is a very popular dish for bengalis also .

    1. Oh really, that is great to know. Thanks.

  2. This looks so flavorful, healthy and yummy! very new to me