Bengali Or Parsi? Who Owns Steamed Fish In Banana Leaf?

Flavours have always crossed shores and cultures and over the period of time mixed well with one another. Something on the same lines can be said about the Parsi dish Patraani Machhi and iconic Bengali Fish Paturi or Maacher Paturi, where both seem to have an almost identical cooking process. The spices are entirely different in their own respective typical avatars. The best part- they both taste heavenly.

Chef Irfan Pabaney, Country Head at SodaBottleOpenerWala vouching for the Parsi’s all-time favourite Patraani macchi adds “so the steaming technique is basically pretty much the same everywhere. they don’t have a specific way of steaming except for the fact that they use a deep dish to trap the juices that may deep out during steaming. The use of banana leaf is most common as it is one of the most versatile elements used for steaming. It has a neutral aroma but still imparts an even better aroma. it does not absorb any of the juices and hence keeps the item being steamed nice and moist. For sure without the banana leaf wrapping, it can’t be called “patra-ni-machhi.” 

Patraani Machhi- SodaBottleOpenerWala

Though they might look uncannily similar but tracing back history there’s no commonality. The real difference lies wherein Bengali Paturi one uses Bhetki, it’s always a Pomfret in Patraani Macchi apart from the marinate where the former uses mustard paste and coconut with a generous serving of mustard oil, the latter uses a mix of coriander and mint leaves paste marinate. 

Bhetki Paturi- 6 Ballygunge Place


While Chef Sushanta Sengupta, Founder Director, 6 Ballygunge Place has a very interesting history to add to this new age Maacher Paturi. He says “this method of so-called steaming the fish was not the actual way, earlier when cooking was done in coal/woodfire most of the slow chargrill food items were always kept on the residue fire. The fish used to be wrapped in 2-3 layers of banana leaf and kept inside the residue fire of the chulha (woodfire). Then when it would be finally cooked, the first layer of banana lead used was thrown and the rest was then relished. Also, back then, most of the leaves used were edible like Pumpkin or Bottle gourd leaves and nothing went to waste. Also if one sees, Bengali cuisine sees nothing like steaming anything like Chinese sees but has evolved over the period of time and today the Macher Paturi is done in this way. Also, mostly banana leaves are used as it’s more commercially available”. 

Whichever it is, but while you open that delicate banana leaf and while you are digging be it on a Bengali Paturi or a Patraani Macchi be rest assured that none will disappoint you. Bon Appetite!