The introduction to today’s recipe is a bit longer than usual, but I felt that a backdrop is necessary on how this recipe found its way to our home. I used to be an ardent fish lover before marriage, but my hubby M never really liked fish. So over these years, I rarely cooked fish at home, that too only when we had guests who loved fish. But last Saturday he made a sudden announcement that we should start cooking fish. I don’t know the exact reason for this sudden change, but I guess it partly stemmed from the empathy he felt for me for my ‘fish sacrifice’ and partly because we are looking for healthier and better diet changes. Any ways, I couldn't believe my ears and had to make him repeat the announcement to confirm that it was indeed real. I have heard dreadful stories from his amma and achan (mom and dad) about the repeated failed attempts to make him and his bro eat fish. But there were strict conditions set before we went for shopping: 1) It should not give that dreaded fishy smell 2) No frying 3) Absolutely no fish bones 4) Dish should be photogenic enough for his camera 5) the home should smell as if no fish ever set foot (oops gills!!!) in our kitchen. These conditions immediately brought the images of a ‘spicy baked tilapia in banana leaf’ recipe i saw in a cookery show long back and had taken notes from. After a tedious search, I located it in one of my note books. This dish can be a mouth watering snack by itself and also is an excellent side dish to white rice or fried rice. More importantly, it fulfilled all his conditions. I am thrilled to state that M enjoyed the preparation more than me with multiple servings :-P . Also this baked tilapia dish is spicy, flavorful and healthy at the same time and the aroma that mint leaves and coriander leaves impart is truly irresistible…..
For the marination:
Tilapia fillets 6 fillets
Turmeric powder ½ tsp
Freshly squeezed lime juice 2 tsp
Salt as needed
Mix all these together and rub on to the tilapia fillets. Marinate this for at least 2 hours.
For the stuffing and Topping:
Onions 3 cups, thinly sliced
Ginger 3 TBSP, finely chopped
Garlic 2 TBSP, finely chopped
Green chilly 3 nos, finely chopped
Coriander powder 2 TBSP
Red chilly powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder ½ tsp
Mint leaves 3 TBSP, chopped
Coriander leaves 2 TBSP, chopped
Tomato puree from 2 tomatoes (microwave the tomatoes for 2 minutes and peel the skin off, puree in a blender)
Sugar ¾ tsp
Salt as needed
Oil 2 TBSP
Whole tomato 1 no, sliced into round for garnish
Banana leaf/Aluminum foil
Heat 2 TBSP oil in a pan at medium heat. Add ginger and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the sliced onions and salt. Sauté until onions are light golden brown color. Throw in chopped green chillies and sauté for another 3 minutes. Now add red chilly powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Sauté this along with onions until the raw smell from the powders goes off. Next add the chopped mint and coriander leaves. Stir well. Adjust salt and add the tomato puree. Cook until oil separates. Add sugar, mix well to combine and switch off the stove.
Cut each fillet into 2 halves lengthwise. Place a TBSP of the filling on to one side of the fish. Bend the fillet like a sandwich and place another TBSP of filling on top. Place a sliced tomato above the filling as in the picture below. Repeat the same with all the fillets.
Pre heat the oven at 350 F. Line an oven safe dish with banana leaf (if its available) or else with aluminum foil. Arrange the fish fillets on the dish. Cover with an aluminum foil. Bake this for 30 minutes. Delicious Spicy baked tilapia fillets are ready to serve…
Hope you all will enjoy this as much as me and M did!!!
Cheers, Suji !!!