I have long wanted to perfect making a fish paturi, because it looks beautiful and sounds delicious, especially the idea of combining mustard seeds with coconut.
So I have been researching many recipes to try and figure out how exactly this should be made, and finally today was successful in my attempt. I followed a YouTube recipe by Rimli Dey, that looked simple yet complex in its flavours. And I was not wrong.
The fish ended up being marinated really well, and the paste had a real kick! Her recipe uses a lot, read a lot, of mustard seeds, so the resulting hit was almost like having had a dollop of wasabi. But traditionally paturi gets eaten with a lot of rice, which balances out the kick from mustard.
Although rice did help with our lunch today, I made some adjustments in the paturi paste recipe. Also since I didn’t have bhetki & poppy seeds are not available here, I made substitutions for those also. So here goes my adapted recipe:
Fish Paturi (adapted from Rimli Dey)
- Barramundi fillets. I used 4 thick, square pieces
- Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
- Salt: 1 tsp
- Lime juice: 1 tsp
- Mustard oil: 2-3 tbsp
- Fresh banana leaves: 8 long & thin pieces (about 2-3 inches in width), 2 per fillet of fish (make sure you wash the banana leaves well before use and dry them)
- 2 green chillies, sliced into 2 each
- Twine to tie the fish parcels
For the Paturi paste:
- 2.5 to 3 tbsp of black mustard seeds (original recipe had 4 tbsp)
- 2.5 to 3 tbsp of yellow mustard seeds (original recipe had 4 tbsp)
- 3 tbsp watermelon seeds + 1 tbsp sesame seeds (original recipe had 4 tbsp of poppy seeds)
- 1/2 cup of fresh, grated coconut
- 3 green chillies
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 – 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 to 1.5 tsp sugar (+ extra as needed)
In a small bowl, soak the mustard, watermelon and sesame seeds in some warm water, along with the green chillies. Keep aside for 15 mins.
In another bowl, add the fish pieces, turmeric, salt and lime juice and mix well. Cover and keep aside.
Drain the water from the seeds & chillies and add them to a grinder. Give it a quick whiz for 1 min. Now add the coconut, turmeric, salt and sugar and mix it till you get a smooth paste. I had to add a few tbsp of water in between. Don’t over mix this paste, as the mustard seeds can get bitter. I added extra salt & sugar to balance out the kick. So you should also taste the mixture and adjust salt & sugar as needed. Once you get a smooth paste, keep it aside.
Take a large frying pan and heat it. Once hot, reduce the heat. Take one banana leaf at a time, place it in the pan and heat it gently. This allows the banana leaf to soften, so that it can be used to wrap the fish without tearing. I prefer to soften the banana leaves in a pan rather than on the open fire, as this way there is less risk of them burning!
Once all the banana leaves are softened, take two leaves and place them in a crisscross pattern. Brush a little mustard oil in the centre where both leaves overlap. Add 2 heaped tsps of mustard paste and flatten them down a little. Place a piece of the marinated fish on top and add 2 more tsp of mustard paste over the fish. Spread the paste so that the fish piece is completely covered. Place 1/2 green chilli on top and sprinkle a little mustard oil over the top.
Now wrap the fish like you would seal an envelope. And tie each parcel with a piece of twine or seal with a toothpick. This process is a little difficult to describe, but the video link of the original recipe demonstrates this really well, so would suggest you follow that.
Once all the fish has been wrapped, take the pan which you used to soften the banana leaf and add 1-2 tsp of mustard oil. Once the pan is hot, place the fish parcels in the pan next to each other. Each parcel must touch the bottom of the pan, and so if all the parcels are not fitting, do this in batches. Or use two pans.
Once you have placed the fish, cover the pan and set a timer for 8 mins. After 8 mins, take the lid off and flip the parcels over. Cook the other side for another 7-8 mins. The original recipe suggests 10 mins for one side, and 8 for the other, so a total of 18 mins. The fish got a little overcooked as a result, so I think 15 mins overall should be more than enough. It’s nice to have a slightly flaky fish when you open the parcels.
Remove the parcels onto a plate, cut the string open and gently unwrap the parcel. Be careful of the steam. Enjoy the fish paturi with steamed rice and a side of vegetables. We also had it with a simple preparation of red spinach and coconut.