Delhiwale: Ms Saxena’s fishy banana dish and all things vegetarian
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Delhiwale: Ms Saxena’s fishy banana dish and all things vegetarian

You will think it is fish fillet, but that’s because Alka Saxena is a kitchen wizard who can mould a banana to her whim

delhi Updated: Oct 07, 2017 13:50 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhi news,Delhiwale,Alka Saxena
Alka Saxena is famous for making dishes that look like chicken and fish but are vegetarian.(Mayank Austen Soofi/HT Photo)

Alka Saxena’s dining table is very conservative. You’ll be served the yellow arhar dal every night, a family tradition. But all her neighbours in Manocha Apartments know she is actually a closet radical.

You see, Ms Saxena is famous for making dishes that look like chicken and fish but are vegetarian. For instance, she might churn out something that looks like chicken biryani but it’s rice cooked with kathal (jackfruit). Her gobhi ka keema is not cauliflowers cooked in keema (minced meat) but minced soyabeans.

This evening, we are at her home in West Delhi’s Vikaspuri and she’s rustling up kacche kele ki machli for us.

No, it is not fish simmered in some banana-based gravy. True to form, it is just humble kela. Ms Saxena will simply steam the banana, after which, “when I press each soft piece with my hands, it gets flattened and looks exactly like a fish fillet, complete with its while stringy veins.”

Ms Saxena, who works in an embassy, learned the recipe from her mother-in-law, Sarla, who learned it years ago from her mother, Draupadi, who had a large banana orchard in western UP.

After the dish is done, the table is laid out and we sit down with Ms Saxena’s family, which includes her husband and daughter.

Our verdict on kachhe kele ki machhi? It does not taste like banana at all. It may even be fish, if we didn’t know the truth. Whatever it is, it’s delicious. And, oh yes, there’s arhar dal too.

KACHE KELE KI MACHALI (Serves 4 people)


Kache hare kele (Raw bananas) 1/2 kg
Onions 2 big
Garlic 6 cloves
Ginger 1 inch cube
Turmeric 1 tea spoon

Red chili powder 3/4 teaspoon
Coriander powder 2 teaspoon
Garam masala a pinch
Salt to taste
Mustard oil
Fresh Coriander leaves for garnishing


Cut bananas into half, place in cooker, add one cup water. Pressure cook for one whistle.

Take out the boiled bananas, peel them, slightly press between both the palms to flatten them.

Heat oil in a pan, fry the flat bananas until golden brown and put them aside.

Grind onion, ginger, garlic and make a smooth paste.

Heat mustard oil in a thick-bottom pan, add the onions, ginger, garlic paste and saute until pink

Add turmeric, red chili and coriander powder, sprinkle some water, saute until the oil separates from the masala.

Add fried bananas, sprinkle some water, mix well, cover the pan with a lid. Let it simmer for 5-7 minutes.

Sprinkle garam masala and fresh coriander leaves.

Eat with roti or crisp paratha.

First Published: Oct 07, 2017 11:43 IST