Apr 26, 2013

Chemmeen/Prawn Pollichathu - a guest post by Nisha

Today was quite a nice and warm day. We literally walked outside without a sweater after so many months , ya such simple feats as walking outside freely is a big deal in Minneapolis where the winters can be quite harsh for almost 6 months of the year. For the first time after moving to our new home we took a stroll around the community and met quite a few of our neighbors who were so friendly and eager to come over and say hello to the newcomers :-) Actually we were hot and tired by the time we came back home…and we loved it!

Today I’m going to introduce you all to a very talented blogger and I’m so happy I met her in this virtual world and was even more happy when she agreed to do a guest post for me – Nisha of Look Who’s Cooking Too. Her blog is a galore of a beautiful pictures and interesting recipes. She has a good sense of humour and I love the way she narrates her posts. She is a smart, pretty and friendly girl whom I really hope to meet some day. To pick one favorite dish from her vast collection is quite difficult as I absolutely love everything she shares and can literally spend hours on her blog. So don’t forget to check out her gorgeous space.

Today Nisha has a really interesting naadan dish for us all and I bet this dish is gonna blow your tastebuds away. Chemeen Pollichathu or Masala Prawns cooked in Banana leaf , a very popular Keralite dish!

Manju of Manju's Eating Delights and I don't go a long way back, but it feels like I've known her forever. I only recently started following her blog posts and I must say I'm hooked. We are Facebook friends and needless to say you invariably end up being part of each others food journey and even life. She's a pro at cake decorating (seriously, check out this CarouselCake she made for a birthday) and is a friendly and cheerful person. I hope that some day I get to meet her in person and maybe even taste a dish or two made by her. While she's busy setting up her home, I'm taking over her page today and sharing a lil something I made.

I am not too much of a seafood fan, or should I say, I WAS not a seafood fan, because these days I do indulge in a seafood of choice once in a while. Which is mostly fish that is masala-fried so much it hardly tastes like fish. I know its sacrilegious to even say that, but sadly that's what works. Prawns are a different story altogether. I have never had an aversion to it, well, my husband would roll his eyes at this. But I can usually handle any prawn prep, except when its just boiled, like in a prawn cocktail. Ok fine, you can say I'm a fussy eater and a pseudo foodie :)

Coming to the prawn pollichathu recipe, it’s an absolutely delicious prep and a crowd pleaser. Dont be put off by the crazy list of ingredients, it’s really not that difficult at all. Banana leaves impart that special taste to the whole prep, but I understand that it’s not readily available everywhere. I myself usually just use aluminium foil in its place,  but this time I wanted to give banana leaves a try and had to go all the way to the Indian grocery store to get myself a batch. I cleaned and froze a couple of them in zip lock bags for future use as well. 

Hope you enjoy this mallu dish, and thanks to Manju for having me over at her space.

Prawn/chemmeen pollichathu (serves 2 as side dish)

To marinate
Raw prawns- 250 gms
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder- a generous pinch
Salt- to taste

For the masala
Coriander powder- 1/2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli powder- 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder- a pinch
Pepper powder- 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder- a pinch
Fennel powder- 1/4 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Ginger-garlic paste- 1 heaped tsp
Oil- 1 tbsp
Shallots- 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Garlic- 5 pods, peeled and roughly chopped
Green chilli- 1, chopped (add more if you want it really spicy)
Mustard seeds- 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig
Tomato- 1 medium, finely chopped
Thick coconut milk- 1/4 cup
Salt- to taste

Cookie tray
Banana leaves- to assemble

Mix together all the ingredients under the "to marinate" section and keep aside while you get the other ingredients ready. (*Refer notes)
In another bowl mix together the first 8 ingredients from the masala section to make a paste. Keep aside.
Heat half of the oil in a kadai and sauté the shallots, garlic and green chilli till the mixture turns light brown. Drain and keep aside.
Add the remaining oil (and a bit more if required) and splutter mustard seeds, followed by curry leaves.
Add the masala paste that you had previously mixed into the oil and sauté till the raw smell disappears. Be careful, as it may vigorously splutter.
Tip in the pre-cooked onion mix, tomatoes and salt and sauté till the mix becomes mushy and the oil starts separating. Keep cooking this on medium heat.
Pour in the coconut, bit by bit, and stir it into the masala.
Once it turns to a semi-gravy like consistency, add the prawns and mix it into the masala.
Cook the mix till the prawn is done, around 8 to 10 minutes. Be careful to not over cook the prawns which can make them rubbery.
The prawns will let out water. If there is still loads of water even after the prawns are cooked, remove the prawns from the masala, increase the heat to high and dry it off. The mix should not be watery, but like I said before, a semi gravy-like consistency.
Once the desired consistency is achieved, turn off the heat and keep aside.

Preheat the oven to 100C.
Layer the banana leaf on a cookie tray and place in the oven till wilted, around 10 minutes. This is done to make the leaves pliable to fold. Traditionally the leaves are just run through heat, on the stove top. But I have an electric glass hob and that wasn't possible, so I wilted them in the oven. Its not as perfectly done as the stove top method, but serves the purpose.
Take the leaves out of the oven and increase oven heat to 175C.
On to the leaf place the prawns (the ones that you removed from the masala) and top it with the reduced masala.
If the leaf is big enough, then fold it over and tie it with a twine. If its not big enough, then place another leaf on top and fold over the sides to make a parcel. Tie with the string.
Place the tray with the parcel back into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.
Once done, take it out and after about 5 minutes open the parcel to reveal delicious, aromatic prawn pollichathu. Enjoy with rice or as a side to drinks.

You can follow the same recipe for any firm fish like pomfret, king fish or tilapia.
*The whole point of marinating the fish is to fry them before layering. I did it with good intentions, but time constraints meant I head to skip the step only to realise that it was not really needed in the first place. So by all means avoid the marination. The only advantage I can see is the frying gets rid of all the water content from the prawn and so when making the masala, the extra step of evaporating the water from the masala can be avoided.
If you can’t find banana leaves, use aluminium foil in its place.
Oil might seep out from the leaf. So you may want to line the tray with some baking paper or foil.
If you are using pre-cooked prawns, it would require even lesser cooking time.
You can replace tomato with 1/2 tsp of tomato paste.

I have only tried preparing this dish with fish , so when I was asked to chose which dish she should share for you all, I was simply excited about the Prawn pollichathu. Doesn't it look simply awesome...can't wait to give it a try soon. Thank you so much dear Nisha for such a lovely guest post.

Have a great weekend you guys and as for us, this weekend is blessed with good climate, so we are definitely not planning to sit a single minute at home as we are gonna fully enjoy the good weather we got after sooooo many months :-) See you all again soon.



  1. Love it when blogging friends support each other with delicious guest posts :)

  2. Nice guest post. Thanks for sharing this Nisha and Manju. looks great

  3. prawn pollichathu sounds delicious.amazing clicks.

  4. So Im done drooling at Nisha'a and here, have to get some leaves to try it soon! Sooo tempting!

  5. this is such a beautiful post...the prawn pollichathu looks so delectable... i go to thani keralan restaurants only for eating karimeen pollichathu, athille, ennal enikonum venda... this one would go well with my hubby, for sure... :)

  6. This is a gorgeous dish. I have to find some banana leaves now. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. it looks so temtping and delicious.Inviting clicks.

  8. Hi Manju and it's nice to meet you Nisha. This is such a scrumptious looking dish. I'll be pinning to give it a try soon. Thanks for sharing.

  9. The colour of the dish itself is very pleasing and attractive,delicious dish.Beautiful dish and fabulous guest post by Nisha.

  10. Make he most of the sun dear..I can see that u r already doing it. BTW lip smacking dish...grt job with Vazhayila Nish.Well done you two :)

  11. Hi Manju! I have been following Nisha and thanks to her I got to visit your blog space. This dish looks not just delicious but steam cooking makes it healthy too. Steamed fish and prawns are a favourite in my family.
    Happy following you...do visit my blog when you get time :-)

  12. This looks nice, spicy and mouthwatering.. Nice post Nisha.. Happy blogging Manju :-)

  13. Fantastic guest post... this looks lip-smacking good!! I could dive into that last photo and eat my way out. :)


Thank You so much for visiting here. I would love to hear from you , please leave a comment or suggestion and Hope to see you again !