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Recipes

Asha's Moringa Coconut Fish in Banana Leaves

Recipe by: Asha Loupy

Serves 4

Asha's Moringa Coconut Fish in Banana Leaves
Photo by:  

Melati Citrawireja

When I first tasted Kudligi Nuggekai—an indigenous varietal of moringa hailing from Kudligi, Karnataka—I was enthralled by the moringa's delicately sweet notes akin to fresh blades of grass, matcha and the tiniest hint of white chocolate. I knew immediately that I wanted to add it to a chutney. Paired with fresh coconut, cilantro, green chillies and ginger, the moringa adds rich, lush notes of sweet grass and a bright, vibrant green flavor that pairs particularly well with fish and seafood.

Inspired by banana leaf-wrapped fish found in parts of South India and Sri Lanka, this recipe uses the moringa coconut chutney to dress luscious pieces of salmon, which are then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. The chutney complements the richness of the fish, while the banana leaves bring an even more floral, herbal flavor and aroma, resulting in a show-stopping dish that is sublimely fragrant—not to mention, truly delicious. This dish is best enjoyed with your hands and plenty of piping hot short grain rice drizzled with ghee.

Psst, the moringa chutney is also stunning on its own topped with a simple tadka of coconut oil, mustard seeds, cumin and a Guntur Sannam chilli or two. Enjoy the chutney with idli(y) or dosa.

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Ingredients

For the moringa coconut chutney
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen coconut, thawed if frozen
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves & tender stems, roughly chopped
  • 1–2 serrano chillis, roughly chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Kudligi Nuggekai (Moringa)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the fish & garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillets, cut into 12 large pieces about 2x4 inches
  • About 4 to 6 fresh or thawed frozen banana leaves, for wrapping
  • Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish
  • Pickled red onion, for garnish
  • Flaky sea salt, for garnish
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Methods

  1. To make the chutney, combine the coconut, cilantro, serrano, ginger, lemon juice, moringa powder and salt in a blender. Blend on high until smooth, making sure to scrape down the sides once or twice. If you are using fresh coconut (which is a little drier than frozen), you may need to add 1/4 cup water to reach a smooth, spoonable texture.
  2. Transfer the moringa coconut chutney to a large bowl, add the salmon fillet pieces and toss to coat.
  3. To prepare the fresh banana leaves, cut four 12-inch pieces of banana leaf (the pieces should be about 12x10 inch rectangles). If using frozen, pat the thawed leaves dry with a clean kitchen towel and cut them into a similar size of 12x10 inches.
  4. To wrap the fish, if using fresh banana leaves, take one leaf and briefly heat it over medium heat until it turns bright green and becomes pliable, about 15 to 30 seconds (you can do this over the open flame or an electric coil on your stove). If using frozen, you can skip this step. Place the leaf diagonally on a flat surface with one of the corners pointed towards you. Arrange 3 pieces of fish and a spoonful of the chutney (there will be a lot at the bottom of the bowl) in the center of the banana leaf. Fold the corner nearest you up and over the fish, then fold in the sides in and continue to fold into a envelope-like parcel. Place the finished parcel seam side down on a plate and repeat with the remaining three portions. Place the fish in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (You can also do this a couple hours ahead of time.)
  5. While the fish is resting, prepare your charcoal grill or heat your gas grill to medium high heat. When hot, oil the grates, place the banana leaf parcels seam side down, close the lid and grill for 4 minutes. Using a metal spatula, gently flip the parcels and cook, covered, until they feel firm to the touch (which means the fish is cooked through), about another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the grill and transfer to a serving platter.
  6. To serve, arrange the garnishes in little bowls on the platter alongside the grilled fish parcels. Allow each one of your guests to unwrap and garnish their own fish. This dish is best eaten with your hands and plenty of rice!
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