Banana leaf is much valued in an Indian kitchen. It was used, and is still used in special occasions, as a serving plate for an Indian meal. Banana leaves, like green tea, contain a beneficial polyphenols and a chemical which indirectly helps to cure Parkinson’s disease.
It can incorporate a subtle taste to a dish. Although it is not eaten as such, the delicate flavour it imparts is what really makes a difference. It actually works as a “natural” foil for steaming. Mix your favourite marinade with your favourite vegetable, meat or fish and just wrap it in a banana leaf and steam or roast at both sides for a wonderful leaf-wrapped dish! Here is an authentic Bengali (Indian) “paturi” which you will enjoy! The paturi tastes best with carp (rohu, katla), Indian hilsa, pomfret and red snapper (bhetki). I have used carp here, since it is available easily all over the world. The paturi is cooked on special occasions and is among the most popular Bengali dishes.
[Variation: Try using pandan leaves in place of banana leaves for a little change!]
- Readymade fresh carp paste: 2 cups
- Unsweetened hung curd: 3 tbsp
- Green chillies (add more chillies for the brave-hearted!): 2
- Mustard seeds: 2 tbsp
- Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
- Salt: ¾ tsp
- Mustard oil: 1 tbsp
- Banana leaves (cut into half the size of your laptop screen): 6 rectangular sheets
Grind the mustard seeds, a pinch of salt and the green chillies into a fine paste. Mix the carp paste, turmeric powder, salt and the curd with this and mix well with your hand, so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the fish-paste mixture so obtained.
Dip each banana sheet into warm water for about 2 min. Remove from warm water and pat dry. Apply mustard oil on each leaf on its glazed side evenly and put a dollop of the fish mixture into it.
Wrap it so that it becomes like an envelope, ensuring that no paste is leaking.
Now tie each of the banana leaf parcels with a piece of thread (alternatively, use a toothpick). Heat a non-stick pan and put these parcels on a medium flame. Cover the lid and let this cook for 2 min. Now reduce the flame to minimum and cook each side till the leaves show a change in colour (this takes around 7 min). Flip and repeat the process for seven more minutes.
To eat, open each parcel carefully and discard the leaf. The steamed and spicy fish preparation is ready to tickle your tastebuds. This is best accompanied with steamed rice!