Sunday, February 7, 2021

Bhetki Paturi - Bengali Fish in Banana Leaves

Bhetki Paturi is a very common and well known Bengali preparation that you would find on restaurant menus and at homes too. Though paturi is not restricted to bhetki, or even to fish for that matter, this mustard laden parcel of boneless fish is a joy! And it's so easy to make -you don't need any special ingredients or equipment. 

A little planning goes a long way in making top notch paturi. And by planning I only mean a long marination time. Otherwise it's just a matter of slapping the parcels together and cooking them. 

Here's how I made Bhetki Paturi.

4 boneless Bhetki fillets 

4 pieces of banana leaf enough to wrap the individual fillets

3 tbsp posto or white poppy seeds

4-5 green chillies

3 tbsp mustard powder

6 tbsp freshly grated coconut


turmeric (optional)

2 tsp lime juice

1/5 cup mustard oil

Soak the poppy seeds for around 30 minutes and then grind to a smooth paste with a couple (or more) green chillies. 

Soak the mustard powder for around 15 to 20 minutes in a little water to make a paste. 

In a clean bowl or tiffin box marinate the fish fillets with salt and lime juice for an hour or so.

In a separate bowl mix the mustard and poppy seed/posto pastes and add a little bit of salt and the grated coconut. Pour in a couple of tablespoons of mustard oil and around half a teaspoon of turmeric if you are using it. I didn't. 

Use approximately half of this mix and coat the fillets nicely. Close the box or cover the bowl and marinate the coated fish fillets for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Reserve the remaining marinade in a separate box in the fridge for use later in the recipe. 

Remove both boxes from the fridge an hour or so before you're going to cook the fish and let them come to room temperature.

In the mean while prep the banana leaves. Wash and dry them and cut to a size that allows you to make neat parcels, each for a single fillet. Coat the inner side of the leaf (this will be darker) with a little mustard oil - take just a few drops on the tips of your fingers and smear to coat most of the middle of the leaf. Hold each leaf over a low flame and move it around quickly to 'roast' it very lightly. This softens the leaf and the central stem and makes it easier to bend and fold while making the parcels. 

To assemble the paturi parcels place a leaf on your work surface dark side up. Put a bit of the reserved marinade onto the leaf and spread it a little to cover as much as the fillet will sit on. Now place one marinated fillet and top with another small dollop of marinade. Add a drizzle of mustard oil and carefully close the parcel. You can use toothpicks or string to tie the parcels together. I didn't need to. Make up parcels using up all the fillets in the same fashion. 

In a flat pan large enough to place all four parcels heat some mustard oil - a tablespoon will be enough. Place the four parcels in a single flat layer, reduce the heat to the lowest and then cover the pan. Use two pans if your pan is too small or do them in batches. Let it cook for around 5 - 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the bhetki fillets and then flip the parcels and cook for another few minutes. Keep an eye on things and don't let the banana leaves char too much or the fish inside will taste charred instead of lightly smokey. 

Serve the bhetki paturis with plain hot rice. 

Among the general reading and YouTube videos I also referred to Debjani's recipe for Bhetki Paturi to understand how paturi is made. 

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