Tuesday 21 April 2020

Fish Basket

Fish baskets 
This is a popular #parsidish that many of us growing up in Karachi loved, whether baked fish style in a flat dish or prepared as a fish basket. A delectable must-have dinner party plate where superb fish was plentiful and always enjoyed by the community.  My aunt Hilla loved this and made it so frequently that we all secretly preferred to eat at her home rather than make it ourselves. A generous lady with a golden heart who never refused us anything.
The basket recipes given here are a combination of recipes from aunts Villie and Zarin.
Now, for those of us who live away from home, making the ''basket'' is messy, so it's easy to find substitutes. Not the same flaky light crispy taste, but adopt and adapt is the rule of the day.  For the bold among us, I outline the recipe to deep fry for themselves. You will need to source out the metal basket to be able to prepare them. 

These fish baskets are made in store prepared baskets made from filo.
The texture and flavour of the original home-made beer battered basket is tastier. 

For a 13 x 9 dish to bake or 24 to 36 baskets to fill
In a stock pot, poach until the fish is half cooked.

3 cups water

1 ½ kg fish in medium pieces

1 1/2 tsp salt

A mixture of finely chopped vegetables, preferably in a food processor if not sieving the fish stock.

2 medium onions

1 cup fresh coriander

4 medium tomatoes

6–10 green chillies

Remove the fish with a slotted spoon and place it in two shallow gratin dishes. With a fork, break the fish while it is still warm into smaller chunks.

Keep on boiling the vegetables in the fish soup until the liquid is reduced by half.

Make a light white sauce with

4 oz butter

6 tbsp flour

Add the fish stock and bring it to a boil. You can sieve it to keep the sauce 'clear' or use the vegetables in it. Keep the consistency light.

Add as needed. 1 to 2 cups of milk

Check for seasoning and put the fish back into the ready sauce. Spoon into the ready baskets. Garnish with tiny bits of beetroot.
Serve immediately.

The batter for the basket, depending on the size, should make 24 baskets.

In a bowl, mix together.
1 cup flour + 1/2 tsp salt
Add two lightly beaten eggs and mix with a whisk until smooth. Slowly add in a cup of chilled beer, folding it in with the whisk. This will make it light and airy, much like a tempura batter. Dip a hot metal spoon in to see if it coats well.

As an alternative to beer, use chilled soda or chilled sparkling Perrier water.

In a small wok or karhai, heat vegetable oil. The level of the oil must be higher than the gadget you use to prepare the baskets.
Dip the metal ladle (a hot ladle helps the baskets fall off easily) into the batter and straight into the oil. It will sizzle and take a minute to cook. Remove it from the oil and tap it off. Keep each basket separately on a tray that can go into the oven.
Once ready to eat,fill them with the fish mixture and place them in a preheated oven to reheat for 5 minutes.

fish basket ladle
fish basket ladle with a long handle to prevent burns. 


The fish mixture can be baked as 'baked fish' keeping the vegetables in the fish stock. You can also add two beaten eggs to it folding it in before you bake it in the oven at 325 F/150C until a lovely golden crust forms on top. Generally baked fish is placed into a 13 x 9 rectangle glass dish to bake. 

My baked fish with all the vegetables finely chopped etc. 

If you are using this recipe to fill the baskets it is my opinion to definitely 'sieve' the fish stock and remove all the vegetables. You can then rough chop the vegetables by hand as they will be discarded. 
Using the fish bones and skin develops the full flavour and any bones will be sieved out.

You will need a ladle that is long and the handle is not disruptive to the basket.
The ladle  on the top will work to make perfect round baskets while the brown wooden handle has screws on it which will break the edge of the baskets. 

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.



  1. Thanks Niloufer i'm going to try this recipe but being a beginner could you please tell me how to heat the ladle before dipping into mixture

    1. One heats the ladle each time before you dip it into the mixture. Two choices - one is to heat it over an open flame or you could hold it over the oil mixture. Either way it is to be lightly heated not necessarily hot. The idea is for the mixture to stick to the ladle and start cooking.

  2. Hi Niloufer:
    For the fish basket which flour is used. Can you kindly clarify