If the backwaters of Kerala are an epitome of tranquillity, a Karimeen Pollichathu wrapped in Vaazha Ila, handed over to you when you are on a houseboat cruise can be an example of serendipity.

Get to know what happens on a typical houseboat cruise of Kerala from another blog we’ve written.

Karimeen Pollichathu or Grilled Pearl spot fish with Vaazha Ila or Banana leaf is one of the most famous food items coming straight from the backwaters of Kerala. While there are varied ways to prepare Karimeen Pollichathu, the most delicious as well as authentic preparation involves the mandatory use of Banana leaves. The use of Banana leaf wrap while grilling the masala marinated fish infuses a beautiful aroma in the fish enhancing the taste by manifolds. Traditionally, in Kerala Backwaters, this particular dish was cooked in a wood-fired oven because of which more aroma was imparted by the singed banana leaves.

Let’s follow the ways to prepare an authentic Kerala Karimeen Pollichathu with Banana Leaf (Vaazha Ila).

Check out some of the  Mouth-Watering List of Non-Veg Dishes that You Will Only Taste If You’ve Been to Kerala!


Raw Pearl Spot FishPic Courtesy: Pinterest

  • Karimeen (Pearl spot fish) – 2 large or 3 small
  • Chopped ginger and garlic – 2 tbsp
  • Green Chillies – 4 Nos. (Can use more or less depending upon the preferred taste)
  • Chopped Onion/Shallots – 2 ½ cups
  • Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder – 1 + ¾ tbsp
  • Turmeric Powder – 1+ ½ tsp
  • Black Pepper Powder – 1 tsp
  • Fennel Powder – 1 pinch
  • Fenugreek Powder – 2 pinches
  • Tomatoes – 2
  • Curry Leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp
  • Banana Leaves (Vaazha Ila) – As required
  • Oil – As required
  • Salt – To taste
  • Lemon Juice – 1 ½ tsp


Karimeen marinated and frying on a panPic Courtesy: YouTube

  • Clean the fish and make 3 to 4 vertical slits on both the sides of the fish. These slits enable the marinade to get properly soaked up by the fish.
  • Make a marinade with a paste of Kashmiri red chilli powder, a pinch of black pepper powder, turmeric powder, lemon juice and salt. Apply the marinade well on the fish and then keep the marinated fish in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Heat 3 tbsp oil in a pan and shallow fry the marinated fish till there is a light golden colour on each side of the fish. Keep aside.

Karimeen Pollichathu

  • Add 1 tbsp more oil along with the previously added 3 tbsp oil. Crackle the mustard seeds in the heated oil. Add curry leaves, chopped ginger and garlic, chopped green chillies and chopped onion. Sauté them till the raw smell starts going away and the chopped onion or shallots start becoming transparent.
  • Add Kashmiri red chilli powder, black pepper powder, turmeric powder, fennel powder, fenugreek powder in the pan, turn the flame to simmer and mix the powders well with the previously sautéed ingredients. Keep frying till the raw smell of the powders goes.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, a bit of salt and fry till the tomatoes are tender. Mash the chopped tomatoes well and stir well. The gravy should start leaving oil. Put off the flame and let it cool.
  • Take a banana leaf. Wash it well. Then cut the leaves into medium to large-sized square pieces leaving the stem part. The size of the square pieces should be adequate enough to wrap the fishes well.
  • Now take the square pieces and lightly toss the sides so that the leaf pieces appear wilted. This will enable them to fold properly without any cracks.
  • In the square pieces spread a layer of the cooked gravy on the centre. Top the gravy with fried fish. Spread another layer of gravy and then finish the layering off with sliced green chillies, sliced tomato rings, curry leaves and onion rings. Wrap the layers tightly by folding the sides of the square pieces of the leaves and then tie-up with threads respectively.

Karimeen Pollichathu


  • Take a deep bottomed pan. Brush 2 tbsp oil, heat the pan and then place a sheet of banana leaf. Upon the sheet, place the wrapped-up fish envelopes. Cover with a lid and then grill them in a low flame for 10 minutes on each side and put the flame off.
  • Some fresh Coconut Milk can be added to make it more aromatic and tasty before you put the flame off. (Optional)
  • Serve the Karimeen Pollichathu with Kerala Matta Rice.

Karimeen Pollichathu

Savour the meal by the backwaters or on a boat. Feel the crispy outer coat and the juicy inside while you hear the birds singing nearby. Life cannot be more cheerful and delectable at the same time. Bon appetit!

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