The tiny Parsi Community of Kolkata may be small in number (about 400 members only) but larger than life in its contributions to the City of Joy. The Parsi’s migrated to India from Persia during the Muslim Conquest of Persia in the 8th Century. They crossed over via the Persian Gulf & Arabian Sea and landed on the Western Coast of India in Gujarat.
From there over centuries they grew and flourished as traders and in commerce and settled in different parts of the sub-continent. The Parsi Community of Kolkata has been here since 1767 and despite its small numbers is very much a beloved part of the cityscape.
Members of the community are known to be great hosts and foodies and much loved for their warmth and sense of humor. We Parsis love our food and drink and till date there are community dinners to celebrate our festivals like Navroz which are very well attended by the community. One of the absolute favorite dishes of the Parsis beside the famed Dhansak is Patra ni Macchi which is made and served on happy and auspicious occasions including weddings & navjote ceremonies (a thread ceremony which is our initiation into the Zoroastrian faith).
Patra ni Macchi literally means Fish wrapped in Banana Leaves similar to the Bengali Paturi but actually completely unrelated in origin. On the west coast it is traditionally made with Pomfret or Chhamna as we Parsis call it. Coated with a marinade of delicious Green Chutney, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed the subtle fragrance and delicate flavors of this dish are outstanding. The beautiful aroma of the fresh fish & green chutney when you open the banana leaf is making my mouth water while writing this. However in Kolkata it is often made with the much loved Bhetki as well.
Sharing below our family recipe of this delicious dish that has been made in our household kitchens for many generations.
It is highly recommended that you use Banana leaves to preserve the authenticity of the flavors however if unavailable the fish pieces may be wrapped in aluminum foil as a substitute.
4 pcs of bhekti or pomfret
100g fresh coconut, grated
1 tsp of jaggery (may be substituted with sugar)
3 green chillies, washed
50g coriander, washed
50g mint leaves, washed
4cm piece of ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp cumin (jeera) powder
¼ tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
½ tsp salt
Banana leaf washed, central spine removed and cut into squares
1 tbsp vegetable oil
METHOD OF PREPARATION:
- Marinate the fish pieces in a glass bowl with lemon juice, salt and turmeric and rest for an hour in the refrigerator.
- To make the Green Chutney – Put the coconut, green chillies, cumin,coriander, jaggery and mint leaves, ginger and garlic, a little salt into a blender and grind to a smooth paste. If it’s two dense a couple of tablespoons of water may be added but don’t let it get watery.
- Generously coat the pieces of fish with the green coconut chutney marinade.
- Dab the banana leaf squares lightly with a touch of cooking oil on the smooth side.
- Place one piece of fish in the center of the banana leaf and wrap into a neat parcel. Tie with twine or with a toothpick. This is important as it helps preserve the lovely fragrant aromas within.
- Place the parcels in a steamer and steam for 15-20 minutes and serve hot.
This post was inspired when the editorial team of Ananda Bazar Patrika on 11th January 2020, the leading Bengali publication approached me to contribute to an article based on the Migrant Cuisine of Kolkata on behalf of the Parsi community. Hope you enjoy your Patra ni Macchi as much as we Parsis do.