Warm greetings to all my readers!
The festive season is in full swing for me – Navaratri, Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja done and now Deepavali coming up! Oh wait! did I forget to mention Halloween for the two boys!
To me, this is the season for indulging the senses: the energetic music and movements of “dandiya”, the colours and textures of “sindur khela”, the lights of “diwali” and of course the most essential of all – taste of yummy food which we Bengalis so fondly call “pet pujo” (worship of the tummy!)
So I was feeling nostalgic and decided to make “Bhetki Maacher Paturi” (Steamed Bhetki Fish) which my mom prepares quite a lot. It takes me back to the time when we would all have casual Sunday meals together with my grandparents, siblings and parents. This dish reminds me more of those warm fuzzy golden moments more than anything else.
“Paturi” or parcels are so unique in its way; it’s not exactly a starter, like a fish fry, nor an entrée like fish curry, it is something we have in between! Oh yes!
It looks complicated and elaborate because of all the banana leaves, the strings and the un-wrapping, etc, but it’s really quick and easy to prepare.
I often make this delight, not only to bring the whole Bangaliana (Bengali-ness) into my household (where my kids have started speaking Singlish(!!!) and my husband loves his quinoa for dinner) but to get the exact taste when my Mom makes it! The effort is still on though on the second front…
- 500 grams Seabass / Bhetki (any boneless fish fillet) or Hilsa (for the daring ones)
- Black Mustard Seeds – 2 Tablespoons (soaked in little warm water for few mins)
- Light Mustard Seeds – 1 Tablespoon (soaked in little warm water for few mins) – I didn’t have this
- Freshly grated coconut – 3-4 tablespoons
- 3-5 Green Chillies (adjust as per your taste)
- Salt to taste
- Mustard Oil – 2 Tablespoons
- Banana Leaves
- Threads or tooth picks for wrapping
How to make it:
Marinate the fish fillets with salt and let it tenderise for a while. In the meantime, grind the mustard seeds, green chillies with a tablespoon of mustard oil in a blender. Mix the paste well with the freshly grated coconut.
Now nicely rub the fillets with the thick marinade, add in rest of the oil and leave them for 30 minutes or more. This will make the fillets very juicy and soft once cooked.
Its important to wash the banana leaves well and then lightly roast them on the gas-oven top, this makes the leaves more bendable and less likely to tear when wrapped. Brush the leaves with mustard oil.
The banana leaves lend a fantastic taste and fragrance to the whole preparation, so this ingredient is necessary for the authentic ‘paturi’ taste – aluminium foil doesn’t cut it.
Gently place each fillet on the glossy side of the rectangle shaped leaves and tie into a parcel using threads or tooth-picks (as shown in the pic)
Pop in to the oven at 220 degs for 15 mins (time depending on the size of the fillets). This can also be steamed or pan-fried, if needed.
Serve hot with steamed rice or pulao.
Tip: For the sharp mustard-y flavour to stay intact for the meal, put the paturis in an air-tight container and do not take out the leaf wrapper until serving. Once opened the aroma goes away quickly. In Kolkata weddings, the leaf is tied around with string and it’s served on the plate with the leaf wrapping intact for the guest to untie and enjoy.
Loved sharing this simple recipe for the festive get-togethers. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.