Monchong in Banana Leaves

I am really enjoying this series, set in India, by Tarquin Hall.  His very original private investigator, Vish Puri is reminiscent of no one else.  Perhaps just a bit of Hercule Poirot with his mustache, Sandown caps and trademark safari suit.  This latest, The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, concerns a duplicitous guru, cheerfully bilking his believers, when Vish Puri is called in to investigate a mysterious, seemingly supernatural death.  Great fun!  Also love the nicknames he's given his assistants, driver, etc. i.e.: Handbrake (doesn't use it enough), Facecream, (lovely female operative),"Tubelight (because he was usually slow to 'flicker on' in the morning."

In the course of his adventures, the chubby fellow is continually downing all sorts of delicious, mostly fried little spicy Delhi snacks; chuski, aloo tikki masala, dhokla, paapris, pakorhas, and etc., trying meanwhile to keep from leaving any residue on his clothing, which would betray him to his wife.  She prepares him healthy food, such as a "veg cutlet" for lunch, always reminding him of his doctor's warning.

 I was not led to fry anything, though those snacks do sound like something tasty to buy prepared, in Delhi say, but rather to do a spicy  fish dish, inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in Nopi, Gurnard, Baked in Banana Leaf.  We don't have that fish here in Hawaii, however he mentioned another firm, white-fleshed fish could be substituted for it.

Whilst doing a perusal of the fish in our local market, I discovered a new one (to me): Monchong or Sickle Pomfret.    They told me it was slightly oily, white-fleshed, and firm.  Perfect!  No additional oil would need to be added. And I do enjoy fixing fish En Papillote or in parchment anyway, but this is even better, as the banana leaf imparts it's own subtle flavor, which combined with the spices is just heavenly.

Besides the banana leaves, I picked a few pandan leaves, one for each packet, laid lengthwise, with the fillets on top.  First I squeezed lemon juice all over the fish, then patted some curry spices all over them.  Yotam's method of wrapping is much simpler also.  Just heat the banana leaves for a minute when your oven has gotten to 425F, to soften the spine, then lay the spiced fillets down the center of each (I did two) 6x8" rectangle, on top of the pandan (if you have them), then fold over, lengthwise, and set on your baking pan, seam side down, leaving open at the ends.  You can see the pandan leaves sticking out the ends.

Bake for about 7 - 8 minutes, until the fish is just cooked.  Fabulous tasting -  loved my Monchong!

 I served it with some left-over Couscous and a small salad.  This delicious meal will be shared over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking show.  Do post something food related and join in, or just check out what we're doing this weekend.


Deb in Hawaii said...

Love this post Claudia! I keep meaning to try that mystery series--it sounds like a good one. I really love Monchong and tend to buy it when I see it. It seems to stand up so well to flavorful spices and rich sauces. Yum! Then the banana leaves--I want to cook with them more--I have only ever done it it a couple of cooking classes because I don't seem to find them often. This recipe looks delicious--Nopi is the one Ottolenghi book I don't have yet and it looks like it needs to join my collection. ;-)

Beth F said...

Oh man that looks delicious. Sadly, no fresh banana leaves in my part of the world, but I can dream. And I can use parchment.

Carole said...

Fish in banana leaves - sounds so wonderful. Cheers from Carole's Chatter!

Laurie C said...

I've been meaning to try this mystery series for quite a while, too! My husband bought banana leaves for his Vietnamese cooking experiments, but I think they must have been frozen. I love eating fresh fish, but don't like cooking it!

Vicki said...

I've seen a few recipes lately that use banana leaves but sadly can't find any in my area.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

We had fish in banana leaves in Barbados, it was tasty.

Nish said...

Loved this post. Vish Puri was one of my favorite detectives when he first came out, and yes, there was so much emphasis on the Delhi food, and his diet failures, very relatable :)

Mae Travels said...

I love to read detective fiction and see how the author uses food to create atmosphere, punctuate the timing, or otherwise advance the story. The mystery you are reviewing sounds as if the author is very skillful in this respect. Thanks! And I've tasted monchong in Hawaii, found it nice -- your recipe sounds really good though not doable in the far north.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com