Pratra ni Muchchi (Cilantro & Coconut Steamed Fish)

My son LOVES fish. Salmon, tuna, whiting, cod, mahi mahi, you name it, he'll eat it. He loves tuna cakes, grilled fish tacos, salmon cakes, sushi (he calls it shusi), sashimi, tempura battered and more.

cilantro and coconut steamed fish
The India Issue of Saveur Magazine

The India Issue of Saveur Magazine

When my latest issue of Saveur magazine arrived, we sat down to read it at bedtime. Cooking magazines often get added to the mix alongside the Berenstain Bears and Richard Scary books. I let him pick out 3 recipes that we were going to make together. He picked out basmati rice, a picture of a cow (he's 4, okay) and Pratra ni Muchchi. It's a recipe from the western region of India. You make a flavorful paste of cilantro, spices, chiles and fresh coconut, and then wrap the fish in a banana leaf and steam it. I made a few alternations to achieve this recipe at home without breaking the bank on one-time ingredients and the results were superb. The paste is flavorful, exotic, delicious and a fun, new way to have fish at our house.

Pratra ni Muchchi

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1 tablespoon grated jaggery or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste*
  • 7 small green Thai chiles or 3 serranos, stemmed (I subbed 1/2 a jalapeno)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 fresh or frozen banana leaves, or 4 sheets parchment paper
  • 4-6 ounce boneless, skinless fillets of sole, flounder or cod 
Whole cumin adds depth to the cilantro paste.

Whole cumin adds depth to the cilantro paste.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor or blender, combine cilantro, fresh coconut, mint, brown sugar, cumin seeds, tamarind paste*, jalapeno, garlic, salt and 3/4 cup of water. Blend until a thick paste forms, scraping down the sides, as needed. For the assembly: place one piece of fish onto the parchment paper, sprinkle with salt, then add 1/4 cup of the cilantro paste and spread it evenly. Fold the edges and form an airtight packet (here's a link to a Bon Appetit tutorial for achieving a parchment packet), then place the packet onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces of fish. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven. Serve immediately.

* Saveur recommended making your own tamarind paste, which I did and now have enough leftover to make their recipe for tamarind chutney

Straining out the tamarind pods to make tamarind paste.

Straining out the tamarind pods to make tamarind paste.