Hara masala machchi: Devouring fish, the Parsi style!

Published: December 7, 2014
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It’s worth sourcing the banana leaves because they add a very distant leafy aroma which compliments the hara masala. PHOTO: SUMAYYA USMANI

I adore hara masala (green masala), as you might have noticed from a few of my earlier recipes. In this recipe, the marriage of green chilli, coriander and mint is sublime.

The leafy pungency of the coriander, the sharp fragrance of the mint, coupled with the grassy heat from the green chilli, brings out the aquatic essence of the hake or haddock (use only a chunky, meaty white fish), together with the addition of coconut, which adds exotic nuttiness, and this will give you a match made in heaven.

This recipe was passed on to my mother by a Parsi friend at university where my mother was learning to be a ‘good wife’, as I always tease her – she was studying at a home economics college in Karachi. She is, of course, a perfect wife and mother too, and that isn’t just because of her training at her Alma Mater. So, this is a traditional Parsi recipe, passed on from family to family in their community across the subcontinent. This is my mother’s take on the recipe she was given. It’s worth sourcing the banana leaves, which are available from most oriental shops, because they add a very distant leafy aroma which compliments the hara masala. Besides that, I just love the neat little green packets! Additionally, if you can’t find fresh coconut then you can use desiccated coconut and a tablespoon of coconut milk.

Photo: Sumayya Usmani

Ingredients

Fresh white fish – 1 kilo (like hake, haddock or cod skinned fish, cut in palm sized fillets)

Mint leaves – 10 to 15

Deveined chillies – 2 to 4

Fresh coconut – ¼ of whole

Turmeric – ½ tsp

Lemon – 1 whole

Roasted cumin – 1 tsp

Coriander – half a bunch

Ginger/garlic paste – 1 tbsp

Banana leaves – 1-2 (large sized)

Jute twine or string – 1 roll (thick)

Salt to taste

Oil

Photo: Sumayya Usmani

Method

For the hara masala, take the coriander, 10 to 15 mint leaves, chillies, fresh coconut, turmeric, lemon juice, cumin, garlic/ginger paste and salt, and grind all these together into a thick paste.

Take the large banana leaves and soak them in boiling water for about five minutes. Cut them to a size that will enable you to wrap the fish.

Marinate the fish pieces in the hara masala for up to 45 minutes then wrap them into the banana leaves in an ‘envelope’ style and tie these with the string. The fish should be completely covered.

Heat a little oil in a shallow pan and fry the wrapped fish on low heat, on each side, for about 7-8 minutes, until it’s done. Partially cover the pan as the fish will splutter quite a bit in the oil and the steam created helps in cooking the fish faster. Maintain low heat throughout and serve it immediately when it’s ready!

This serves about three to five people and it takes about an hour to make. For best results, do not reheat it and the fish should be cooked right before serving. Here is a menu suggestion: this fish can be served best with kathi daal and yellow potato pullao with dill (aaloo ki tehri).

 This post originally appeared here.

Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani

She is a writer and cookery teacher based in London, UK, specialising in the cuisine of Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She blogs at www.mytamarindkitchen.com/ and tweets as @MyTamarindKtchn (twitter.com/MyTamarindKtchn) She is also the author of a cookbook, Summers under the Tamarind Tree.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.