January 15, 2010

Meen Pathiri/ Steamed Fish Pancakes

One of my favorites from Malabar cuisine is meen pathiri i.e. rice pancakes stuffed with fish and steamed..is that an accurate description of such a balances of flavors? or is fish pie a better title? Trying to explain traditional cuisine to those who haven't tasted needs a stretch of imagination in terms of the language and ingredients.
This is another of those traditional Malabar recipes that is getting endangered and should be on a protected list..They were (and maybe still) are so commonplace in our houses but you might be more familiar with it through the travel cookery shows in Kerala where they are deemed exotic and laborious.

Pathiri is a term used loosely in Malabar region of Kerala to mean roti/chappathi/ or flatbread. The prefix of the word" pathiri" decides what kind it is..godumbu pathiri is made of godambu,i.e.wheat, ari pathiri is made of rice flour, erachi pathiri, has erachi /meat stuffed in it, meen pathiri has meen,/fish stuffed in it and so on.
This fish pathiri is made with Kng fish/Aikora or with Mackarel/ Aila or even with Sardines/ Mathi. When pressed for time, I have made this with canned tuna, canned sardines and it tastes passably good.

Traditionally, the fish steaks are marinated lightly in a paste of red chili powder, turmeric and salt. They are then shallow fried and removed before they turn too crisp. Then the fish is deboned and cut into small pieces and made into a stuffing along with onions, chillies, curry leaves and toasted coconut. The filling is laid between two pathiri/flatbread or rotis made of rice flour, wrapped  in the plantain leaves so easily available from the backyard garden and then steamed.
Some people add tomatoes to the mixture but my mom doesn't and so I got used to the taste without it. I make it either way and like both tastes. It is entirely optional and you could try it either way too. The mix should be semi dry.... too dry makes the filling spill out and too wet make the rice cover soggy. This time, my filling turned out to be a bit drier than expected as I was on the phone chatting with my folks while making it.:) We make it as pies and for ease of eating as small half moon  shaped ones too, similar to the sweet ada.

But they are not hard to make and for those who like fish, it is a a very healthy dinner or snack filled with  protein, and steamed not fried!  This is one of the items on the Iftar menu but I didn't get around to posting it earlier. Even now the photos don't do justice to the spicy taste of it

 You will need: this makes about 3-4 pies or 10 adas

For the filling:

Onion- 3 medium sized ones( use some shallots for more flavor)
Tomato-1 small sized one( optional)
Green chilies- 4-5
Ginger Garlic Paste- 1 tsp
Red chili powder-3/4  to 1 tsp as per taste
Coriander powder- 1 tsp
Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- 3 sprigs
Salt to taste
Oil- 2-3 tbsp

For dry roast:
Coconut grated-1/2 cup
Shallots-4 small ones chopped
Fennel seeds/Saunf-1 tsp
To Marinate The Fish:-
King Fish/ Mackerel or Pomfret-6-7 pieces
Red chili powder 2 tsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Salt as required
Oil to fry


Wash the fish , toss with lemon juice and wash again. Marinate in the red chili powder, turmeric powder and salt for an hour at least and then shallow fry it in vegetable oil. Don't let it get too brown and crispy..... the idea is to just cook the fish, not deep fry it. Drain, and remove the bones and skin and shred the fish.

Fish Filling:
In a cast iron skillet or a heavy bottom pan, dry roast the ingredients specified above, all together on very low heat till the coconut gives out its aroma and starts turning brown at the edges. Take it off the flame and pulse in a dry grinder to powder it coarsely. No water is to be added.

Heat oil and saute onion and green chillies. When the onion becomes transparent, add ginger-garlic paste and then the coriander powder, chili powder, garam masala and turmeric powder.( If you are adding tomatoes, add them at this point and cover and cook for 5 minutes or till the tomatoes look pulpy and add salt. Stir and sauté till the whole mixture gives out oil and moves as one mass in the pan.) Add the fish to the onion mix and stir together on medium heat. When there is just enough moisture in the fish masala as needed for the filling, add the coarsely ground coconut, finely shredded curry leaves, salt and mix well. Taste and adjust as needed. Remove from flame and keep aside.

 The rice paste:
Rice flour- 2 cup
Water- 2 cup
Salt- 3/4 tsp
Fennel seed powder- ½ tsp
Coconut milk powder - 2- 3 tsp (or use ¼ cup coconut ground with little water)
Traditionally, parboiled rice is soaked in hot boiling water for 4 hours and then washed with cold water and ground along with coconut and fennel seeds using very little water to a semi-wet paste. Instead, I use rice flour and coconut milk powder.

 Spread the flour along with the fennel powder and coconut milk powder in a wide bowl. Heat 1 1/2 cup water with salt till it boils and pour into the rice flour. Stir once with a fork and cover for 5 minutes. Pour 1/2 cold water to cool it down. Knead it into a soft sticky dough.

 This is traditionally steamed in banana leaves, but since I didn't have any handy, I used parchment paper. You might find banana leaves in Asian stores frozen section..defrost and soak it in boiling water to soften it and then use it for wrapping.

Cut parchment paper into suitable size squares. Place a big orange size ball on the paper  and  flatten it with the heel of the hand (like doing karate chops) to avoid sticking to the hand. If that is difficult, place another parchment paper over it and roll it with a rolling pin to a pathiri circle..how wide is upto you.. the thickness should not be too much.. Remove the top paper carefully. Leave the pathiri on the banana leaf/parchment. Make another similar sized flat  pathiri. Place the filling on the first pathiri leaving a half inch trim along the edges. Place the second pathiri on it and then press down on the edges with your fingers to seal the pie. Cover the whole pie with parchment paper tightly or with banana leaf  and then steam in your steamer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove them from the steamer and peel off the parchment paper.

Check out Priya's kitchen for a wonderful description of the ada with emphasis on steaming and parchment paper. 
For steaming, use a steamer or rice cooker or any large vessel half filled with water. Place a colander or a steamer basket over the water when the water boils and reduce heat to medium. Place the adas in the basket, cover it and cook for 7-10 minutes. Let it cool down before serving.

This one was made at another time and has tomatoes in it.. the textures is also a little moister.

Related Links:
Shab's Meen Pathiri


Jyothsna said...

Cha, don't call pathiri a pie!! I don't think I've ever had one but the pictures are so good, and I'm craving for some now!

Asha said...

You always take time to post wonderful traditional dishes from Kerala. Feels like I am in there and sitting right infront of that plate waiting to pop one Fish pie in my mouth.

Looks delicious. Dry masala is so typical of Kerala cuisine. Good one girl. Enjoy them.

sra said...

It looks grand! Love the first photo!

Rahin said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe, always wanted to know one reliable recipe for pathiri

Sakshi said...

OMG did you just say that canned tuna can be used for this?? Now I am grinning mad coz I just have one of those somewhere in the pantry and going to treat myself with meen pathiri. Btw I made your chicken samosa yesterday too...have lost the number of times I have made it by now. Thanks a ton for all my fave home recipes.

PS: Did you shift to a new place by now?

jazZ said...

Had always wanted to try out Pathiri...thanks for sharing the simple yet basic recipe.

Anonymous said...

looks good. and am sure is well worth the effort... so true about traditional foods being reduced to being shown on exotic travel and cookery shows...hyderabadi cuisine is being reduced to biryani and it gets my goat each time i hear that!!

Shabs.. said...

My alltime favorite recipe....i did post it sometime back in my blog....I have been craving for this one since couple of days....pinney undakkenda madi alochichu iruppaanu....Angottu varatte..?...i also steam like u mentioned....placing a colander in a large vessel....hehe...nannaayittundu...

Happy cook said...

I have never had this, i must be a bad mallu, i would love to taste this, you would be shocked to know how much i am salavatiing looking to tha pic.

Rekha shoban said...

Hi dear, pathiri looks perfect!!

Mallugirl said...

jyo..yeah, a pathiri and a pie are far apart, isn't it? trying to make it recognizable for everyone.

Mallugirl said...

Asha,i would have loved to document all the traditional cuisine but in this servant less country, i make more of the easy quick food instead.

Sra, yeah, photo is deceptive.. this is simple food, not party food!

Rahin, Pathiri is only as good as the podi. most of the rice flour in stores here is from white rice and not parboiled rice so the pathiri comes out hard.

sakshi, yup.. i moved and kind of settled in now. yes, u can make it with canned tuna and sardines. My mom abhors the short cut but it works for me when i can't get good king fish.

jazz, u are welcome. it might take a couple of times before it comes out right. but let me know if u really will be trying it out.

arundati, u are right.. i am learning more abt food thru the blogs than before and it has such depth than the perceived and cliched items.

Shabs, u did? i will link it up here so everybody can get another recipe for it. I am also lazy to make it frequently.:)

Happy cook.. don't worry, i have mallu friends who have tasted it and don't even like it.. its an aquired taste.. the ada texture and fish is not common.

Myra said...

For the title i think
Stuffed fish pancakes,is more appropriate,generaly a fish pie is cooked and served in a pie dish.
The fish filling has give me so many ideas,eg stuffed vegetables(red peppersMmmm)
baked potatoes,
tortilla wraps,Samosa
whooups getting carried away:)-
j'adore! love this filling.
What texture does the actual pancake have after being steamed,
must try this "Meen Pathiri"
Yours Myra

Mallugirl said...

Myra, u are right and i have changed the name..:)
The pancake texture is similar to dumplings but not really. It is a little sticky and yet just soft. hard to put into words. Now ur ideas of fillings are really interesting. red peppers and onions will go well. i will let u know.

Anonymous said...

Wow...you have a lovely collection of Kerala recipes :) The meen pathiri looks delicious!

Srivalli said...

That sure looks lovely Shaheen, I have had a pathiri stuffed with dal and jaggary..and loved every bit of it..

Bharathy said...

Minced fish wrapped up in ada..:)...Delectable..!!
haven't heard of this classic pancake nor tried..:)

Glad to see you with the Malabar authentics..:)!!!

Anonymous said...

i loooooove rice pathiri and used to wait up along with my grandma in the sureness of our neighbors bringing up pathri & beef curry on the evening of ramadan. yum picture!

BongMom said...

OMG Sh, This I am sure we would love. My Mom would make such stuffing and make samosas but never had steamed ones

Geeta said...

Servant less country. How
I love that term and feel with you...I am trying to teach a Mexican college student to help me in the kitchen...so far I have learned how to make enchiladas...she is working on potato palya...
Love the meen pathiri...the cover reminds me of the soft Chinese dumplings in thick rice flour casings...another wanna try it recipe.

AdukalaVishesham said...

can you pass it on..very hard to resist..we shall try this very soon..

Miri said...

Wow! have never tried this, but it looks like it would be amazing. Think I need to allocate one Sunday to try this wonderful recipe!

vivari said...

that is a new recipe. I would love to try it

Pravs said...

OMG !! i want to grab that meen pathiri and have it now. Never had one..want to try this one for sure. Hey i didn't wish you a happy new year. Best wishes for the new year:)

Sig said...

Never had this one before, it looked like sweet ada to me, then I read what is in it and I am totally drooling now.
BTW, I don't remember if I ever wished you a happy new year. Since we are still in Januaray, I don't think it is too late, right? :)Wish you and family a wonderful 2010 Shaheen!

Ramya Vijaykumar said...

Lovely recipe... The thought of steamed pancakes stuffed with fish make me long for it more!!!

AdukalaVishesham said...

We have nominated you for the Kreativ blogger award. Please visit our site and accept your award.

Anonymous said...

Happy New year to you and your family. How is your little one doing?

Meen pathiri looks delicious. I am gonna definitely try this out very soon.


Preethi Rajeev said...

Meen Pathiri looks delicious, nice click. First time here, loved ur blog. Following u


Fathima said...

I have never had this eventhough I have heard abt it a lot... nice clicks and great explanation... first time here and love ur blog...

Beau Lotus said...

We make Sardine Puffs in Singapore and they are either baked or fried. If baked, the shell is usually made of puff pastry and the sardines are usually fried with fresh chillis, garlic, coriander leaves and onions with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Steamed fish pancakes sound and look delicious too - worth a try!

Anonymous said...

Hi ,
Awesome recipe ,thanks for posting this wonderful recipe..I have always loved to learn this ,I have surfed many recipes and iam damn sure that yours is the best ..
Photos are so cool..

princiya said...

hi...new to ur blog....was browsing for meen pathiri recipe tht had details hw to make traditionally as o too feel tht packaged rice pwdrs dont do justice to the pathiri....so was really happy to come across ur bolg...just a small doubt u mention abt using garam masala in the filling bt havent mentioned it in the ingredients section(as u knw the quantitywise)....ty and keep sharing wonderful recipes like these....:)