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Halibut "en papillote" with a Coriander-Coconut Chutney
(Paatra Ni Machi)
From Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness
(Clarkson Potter; 2004)
Adapted by StarChefs.com

Yield: 4 Servings

I’ve adapted this dish from a celebrated Parsi dish of fish steamed in banana leaves. I can’t prepare it without thinking of the Parsis of Bombay, amongst whom I lived while I was in school there. They are an extraordinarily civilized people, as educated as any on earth and beautifully dressed. But when you go to a Parsi banquet, you see another side of the culture. The people are so enraptured by the food that a sort of brawl breaks out when the buffet is opened. This is one of my favorite Parsi dishes.


  • 4 skinless halibut fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

    Corriander-coconut chutney:
  • 2/3 cup grated, fresh coconut or 2/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut mixed with 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 fresh, hot green chilies
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups fresh coriander leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves (optional)
  • 3/4 teaspoon tamarind concentrate, or juice of 2 small lemons
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Canola oil, for brushing

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Sprinkle the fish all over with the salt and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the chutney, combine all of the chutney ingredients in a food processor and process until well chopped.

When the fish has marinated 30 minutes, rinse and pat it dry.

Cut a piece of aluminum foil about 15-inches long and lay it on a work surface, one of the short sides facing you. Brush the bottom half with a little oil. Spoon about one-eighth of the chutney on the bottom half of the foil rectangle and spread it out to a horizontal rectangle about the size of the halibut fillet. Set one fillet on top of the chutney and cover with another eighth of the chutney. Fold the top half of the foil rectangle over the halibut so that the top and bottom edges meet. Fold the bottom edge up about 1/4 inch, and then fold it up twice more. Do the same on both sides to completely seal the halibut in the foil package. Repeat to make three more packages.

Put the packages in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until the foil just begins to puff, about 11 minutes. Cut the packages open and slide the fish and chutney out onto plates. Serve hot.

For halibut cooked “en papillote” with tomato chutney, follow the directions above but instead of the coriander-coconut chutney, use a store-bought or homemade tomato chutney – using a Tablespoon underneath the fillet and a tablespoon on top. Cook exactly the same way.

SIDEBAR: Grating Fresh Coconut
Coconuts may be available at your supermarket. If not, you’ll find them sold in markets in Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods. To grate fresh coconut meat, twist or hammer a screwdriver or a sharpening steel into two of the “eyes” of the coconut and pour out the coconut juice. (This water, sweet, coconut-tasting juice is not a substitute for coconut milk – the thick, rich liquid that you buy in cans in the supermarket – used in Bombay Chicken Curry with Coriander and Coconut Milk, the South Indian Style Chicken with Curry Leaves and Black Peppercorns on the book. It does, however, make a lovely, sweet and very refreshing drink if you strain and chill it well.)
Bake the coconut in a 350°F oven to make the white flesh pull away from the brown husk. Then wrap the coconut in a towel and bang with a hammer in several places to split it open. Use a regular screwdriver to separate the white flesh from the hard, brown shell. Then use a vegetable peeler to peel off the thin layer of brown skin. Grate the coconut on a grater or in a food processor.

   Published: September 2005