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Mathi/ Sardine Pollichathu- Grilled Fish Masala

Mathi/ Sardine Pollichathu

Sardine is a small oily fish found plenty in coastal regions of South India. It is sustainable seafood, and several cuisines have unique ways to cook this healthy fish. Spicy sardine fry is my absolute comfort food and goes well with steamed rice and vegetables. Curried or fried sardine fish tastes delicious. Sardine is a versatile fish that I love experimenting with. Earlier I post Karimeen polichathu and chemmeen polichathu. Polichathu is a good deal more delicious than curried fish, because of the cooking technique. If you are new to this, it is worth a try. It is a spicy, grilled masala fish wrapped in banana leaf. Fish roasted in fresh banana leaf adds more flavor and taste to the dish and helps to lock in the taste and moisture. The result is a tasty, tender, succulent fish. Fish grilled in fresh banana leaf has a delectable taste- the smokey flavor gets combined with the spices and the masala. Each fish packet has sauteed masala spread on the fish, and the banana leaf is closed and tied with a string. It is best to grill on a Tawa or manchatty (earthen pot), but you can also use an outdoor grill or bake in the oven.

Polichathu is a classic recipe, but you can ring innumerable changes to the sauce. The tomato-onion base has the right balance of heat and flavor with chili and tang from tomatoes and vinegar. Malabar tamarind or kudampuli also tastes good. It adds a smokey, tangy flavor to the masala. If spicy food is not your thing, you can reduce the amount of chilly. This recipe is very forgiving and customizable, and you can't go wrong.  You can make this masala ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.

Sardine is not a mild fish but has a bold flavor and taste. The spicy and tangy masala paste complements the flavor of the fish. It keeps the fish moist and the skin slightly crisped. Back home, the fish packets are cooked and grilled over an open fire, and there is a bit of smoked and charred flavor, and it is delicious. It is a perfect summertime recipe. Rice is a traditional accompaniment with polichathu, but you can also enjoy it with Kerala appam, bread, or flatbread.

Mathi/ Sardine Pollichathu- Grilled Fish Masala 

Sardine- 8-10
Finely minced shallots-  1 cup
Ginger- 2 inch thick finely chopped
Garlic- 6-7 finely chopped
Tomato puree- 1 cup
Thick coconut milk-1/2 cup
Kashmiri Chilly powder- 1 1/2 tbs
Turmeric powder-1/3 tsp
Coriander powder-1/2 tsp
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Vinegar- 2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp
Fennel powder-1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- a few
Coconut oil- 2-3 tbs
Banana leaf for wrapping

Clean fish and marinate with pepper powder, salt, and turmeric powder. Set this aside for five minutes. Heat a pan and add coconut oil. Fry in medium flame till fish is evenly brown and slightly crispy. Set it aside.
In the same pan, add the minced onion, and saute till golden brown. Add garlic, ginger, and curry leaves and saute till raw flavor disappears. Pour tomato puree and cook till oil separates. Add spice powders, coconut milk, and vinegar and simmer till the gravy thickens and switch off the flame.

Take a banana leaf  (you can make two small parcels with this recipe) and gently place it on the gas stove flame turning each side quickly till it changes color. Place this leaf on a plate and spread a thin layer of masala. Place fried fish and spread some more masala on top of the fish. Fold in from all sides, wrap the leaf and tie it. (for a step by step instruction check here) . Heat a manchatti (earthenware) with a lid or a Tawa. Grease it with oil, place the wrap in and cover and cook for 3-4 minutes turning sides in between. Let it sit in the wrap and cool down before serving. Serve with rice or pathiri.

You might also like,

Kerala Fish Fry/ Chala/ Sardine Fry
Mathi Puliyum Mulakum/Sardine Fish Curry
Karimeen Pollichathu/ Kerala Pearl Spot Fish Fry
Kerala Chemmeen/ Prawns Pollichathu 

Try this...
Hope you will all enjoy.


  1. mathi pollichathu looks adipoli

  2. anything pollichathu tastes just too good... I am not a mathi fan but would love to have this...

  3. Always love that banana leaf smell in foods. Mathi meen looks delicious in that wrap. bookmarking this !

  4. Aww looks so yummy and spicy. Can imagine the smell of fish cooked in banana leaf


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