Patrani (leaf) Macchi (fish) is a classic Parsi dish, its name is derived from the manner in which the fish is cooked. It involves steaming or baking fish that has been marinated in a cilantro-mint based chutney and wrapped in banana leaves. Parsis emigrated to India from Persia (800 – 1000 CE) and are descended from the Persian Zoroastrians. They are a small but very influential community and have left their mark on India in several fields. They are now mainly concentrated in Mumbai and that was where I tasted patrani macchi for the first time. On one of my visits to Mumbai, my uncle unexpectedly brought over some fish for dinner from his favorite Parsi restaurant. I was used to eating fish cooked the Mangalorean way – either fried or in a coconut based curry and this was a novelty for me. As I unwrapped the banana leaves, I found a small pomfret cooked delectably in a green marinade. It was delicious! It is a pretty easy dish to prepare and while the recipe I present is probably not the authentic one, it nevertheless is delicious and close to the original. Fresh pomfret is not available here, so I usually use Haddock or Tilapia. Halibut, Cod or any other firm white fleshed fish will also work.
- Fish filets: 2 lb, (cut into smaller pieces if you are using a large fish)
- Grated coconut: 1/2 cup
- Cilantro: 2 cup
- Mint leaves: about 20
- Garlic: 4 cloves
- Ginger: 1/2 inch piece
- Green chillies: 6
- Lime juice: 1 tbsp
- Cumin powder: 1 tsp
- Sugar: 1/2 tsp
- Salt: to taste
- Water: 1/2 cup or less
- Oil: 1 tsp
- Banana Leaves: cleaned and cut into 6 inch squares
- Cooking twine or toothpicks
Blend all the ingredients (with the exception of banana leaves, cooking twine, toothpicks) to a fine paste.
The paste needs to be as smooth and dry as possible but you may need to add some water in order to blend all the ingredients.
Coat the fish filets with the masala paste and let it marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Apply oil to the inside of the banana leaf squares.
Wrap each filet in a leaf square and tie it with twine or use the toothpicks to secure the leaves.
If you are steaming the fish, place it in a steamer and steam for about 15 min.
If you are baking the fish, preheat your oven to 350 F and bake the fish for about 20 minutes.
If you cooking the fish on a pan, heat the pan on medium heat, apply oil to the surface of the pan and place each packet on it. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the fish packet once in between.
Serve hot with rice.
Considering that the fish is not fried, this is a pretty healthy recipe!
Banana leaves are available in my local Indian store as well as grocery stores. They are available in the frozen section. If you don’t have access to banana leaves, you can use aluminum foil and bake the fish in the oven.
I’ve eaten a variant of this dish at the KSCA club house in Bangalore, I think it was called Portuguese fish.