Category: Fish


Of all the Bengali Fish Curries that feature various veggies in different permutations and combinations, this one is my favourite. Medium sized florets floating in the curry appeal to me more than the fish pieces. Here’s the recipe for ya:

Ingredients:
Rui Fish pieces – 5-6
Cauliflower – 1 small – cut into medium sized florets
Potato – 3 medi sized, cut into quarters
Onion – 2 small or 1 big, finely chopped
Ginger paste – 2″ piece
Tomatoes – 2 small
Cloves – 2-3
Cardamom – 2-3
Cinnamon – 1″ piece
Star anise – 1 (optional)
Bay leaves – 1-2
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp for tempering + 1 tsp for paste
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp + 1 tsp for frying fish
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 5-6 or more depending on spice tolerance
Coriander leaves – a handful chopped
Sugar – a pinch
Oil – 6 tbsp (I generally mix sunflower oil and mustard oil)

Method:
Preparation:
1. Grind ginger and cumin seeds together to a fine paste.
2. Coarsely pound together cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
3. Marinate cleaned fish pieces with salt and turmeric powder. Shallow fry till crisp yet soft from within.
4. In the same oil, add some salt and turmeric powder. Shallow fry cauliflower florets till they turn crispy from outside. Keep aside. Repeat the same with potato cubes.

To make the curry:
1. In the same oil, add cumin seeds. When they splutter, add bay leaves, star anise and pounded garam masala.
2. Once nice aroma emanates, add a pinch of salt, add chopped onion. Saute till onions turngolden brown.
3. Add ginger cumin paste and saute till raw smell goes away.
4. Add chopped tomatoes and slit green chillies, once they turn soft, mash them using the back of spatula.
5. Add red chilli powder, salt and combine.
6. Add shallow fried florets and potato cubes and combine.
7. Add water as per desired consistency. Adjust salt of required. Add fried fish pieces and chopped coriander leaves. Let it boil.
8. After the first boil, cover it and let it cook on sim till the veggies are cooked.

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There are a few go to blogs where I hop for specific recipe needs, without worrying about the end result. Pree’s blog is one among them. Mostly for non-veg dishes, I have been lately referring to her recipes on and off coz they have given me accolades each time. While surfing through her recipes I saw an impromptu invention of hers in the form of Prawn Biryani. I modified the recipe as per ingredient availability in my pantry and the pulao came out delicious to say the least.
Here is how I made it:
Basmati rice – 1 1/2 cups
Seer / King fish – 5-6 medium sized pieces
Onion – 1 medium sized, finely sliced
Garlic – 7-8 cloves
Ginger – 2″piece
Green chillies – 4 or as per spice tolerance
Coriander leaves – a handful
Lemon juice – few drops
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1 tsp
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Cooking oil – 2 tbsp
Cardamom – 2 (Green and black)
Cinnamon – 1 stick
Bay leaves – 2
Star anise – 1 
Nigella seeds – 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg – a pinch grated
Salt to taste
Method:
1. Boil fish pieces in enough water with salt and turmeric powder. Once the fish pieces are cooked, strain the water and reserve. Remove the bones from fish and keep aside.

2. Grind ginger and garlic together. Keep aside.
3. Grind green chillies and coriander leaves together. Keep aside.
4. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and saute onion slices till brown.
5. Add ginger garlic paste and saute for a few minutes till the raw smell goes away.
6. Add chilli-coriander chutney and saute for 4-5 minutes.
7. Add fish pieces, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, black pepper powder, salt and combine.
8In another frying pan, heat the remaining one tbsp oil, add the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, nigella seeds, star anise and stir for a minute. Add the rice and fry till the grains get coated with the oil. Add the grated nutmeg, and salt (carefully as our prawns already have some). Fry for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. 

9. In a microwave safe bowl, add the rice, fish mixture, one cup of thick coconut milk and one cup plus two tbsps of water.
10. Microwave on high for 20 mins and let it stand for atleast 10 mins.

Just out of the microwave oven…

After giving a light stir…

Vison is called Brahmin fish. You know why? The fish has a single thin line on its body which resembles the thread that Brahmins wear as per religious customs. Vison to Konkanis is what Betki is to Bong if I may say so. In Kannada, this fish is called Arakozhi (Ara meaning half, Kozhi meaning Chicken) because of minimal bones and texture is close to chicken. Back home we used to fry fish by marinating in masala and rolling in semolina. But since my Bong family does not prefer semolina coated fish, I have begun coating in rice flour which turns out yummy too.

Ingredients:
Seer Fish – 3-4 slices, medium sized
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 2 tsp or as per spice tolerance
Turmeric powder – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Rice flour – 2-3 tbsp
Coconut Oil – 4 tbsp (I prefer coconut oil, any other cooking oil can be used)

Method:
1. Marinate fish pieces with ginger garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and lemon juice. Keep aside for atleast half an hour.

2. Roll the marinated fish in rice flour so that it is well coated on both sides.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan, place the fish pieces in the pan and on low flame let it cook for about 5 mins. Invert the fish pieces. Once the fish pieces are cooked, increase flame and let it get roasted well on both sides.
4. It can be served with lemon wedges and onion rings.

When we have Fish served on our table, it’s Ma who gets to eat fish heads. Neither do I nor hubby eat fish heads. Ma is certainly expert at eating heads (pun intended, wink wink) So nowadays when we bring fish we generally preserve the heads in the freezer for use in side dishes like this or even the Bong Classic Mug Dal with Fish Head. Initially I used to nauseate looking at a large fish head swimming in a bowl of dal. Now I have kinda got used to this fishy addition to my otherwise veg dishes. I have begun liking my Sabzis with fish heads coz you don’t get to see the scary thing staring back at you coz the whole piece gets disintegrated as you keep stirring while the dish is getting made and gets united with the veggies. You would have a fishy flavour to your vegetarian dishes. This dish could be prepared without the fish head and tastes wonderful on its own.
Ingredients:
A small cabbage – finely shredded
Potaoes – 2 medium sized, cut into 4 or 6 cubes each
Green peas – a handful (optional)
Tomtoes – 2 medium, finely chopped
Ginger paste – 1 1/2 tbsp
Onion – 2 medium, finely sliced

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Red chilli powder – 3 tsp or as per spice tolerance
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Roasted cumin powder or Bhaja Masala – 1 tsp
Ghee – 2 tsp
Oil – 3 tbsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves – 1 a handful, finely chopped
Fish Head – one half of a large fish (Use head of Rohu or Katla) – absolutely optional
Method:
1. If using fish head, marinate it with salt and turmeric powder and deep fry in oil till it is cooked and keep aside.
2. Pressure cook cabbage and potatoes with salt and very little water as cabbage will release water for 1 whistle and keep aside. Strain the cabbage and potatoes and throw away the water. (The water is not retained coz Ma says it will becoz Cabbage boiled water causes gastric problem.)
3. Heat oil in a pan, add sliced onions and saute till they turn golden brown.
4. Add ginger paste and saute till the raw smell goes away.
5. Add tomatoes and saute till they turn mushy and oil is separated.
6. Add cabbage, potatoes, peas, fish head (if using), turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, salt and sugar and combine well.
6. Cover and cook on low flame till all the veggies are well cooked. Now remove the lid, increase flame and cook till excess water is evaporated, stirring once in a while. This is a dry side dish so, we don’t want it to be watery.
7. Remove from flame, add chopped corainder leaves, Bhaja Masala or Roasted Cumin Powder, Ghee. Give a gentle stir and keep covered till served.
8. Mostly served with Indian breads or as a side with Rice and Dal.
I love surprises especially when I’m not at the receiving end. Frankly speaking, I’m glad Abbas seldom throws me surprises. Reason?
1. His tummy tickles itself till he blurts out to me.
2. He wouldn’t want the surprise to turn out as a shock!
Even today, the child in me gets excited at the sight of ‘Jack popping out of boxes’. What if the Jack hides in my food… The idea struck me as I was planning to make Mackerel Doddak. I had a few shrimps lying in my freezer and the quantity was too meager to make a stand alone dish out of ‘em. That’s how this idea was born. I initially wanted to bake the stuffed fish but later ended up shallow frying on a griddle by coating them in rice powder. The fish fry was good but I loved the shrimp masala more…
Ingredients:
For Shrimp masala:
Shrimps – ¾ cup, deshelled, deveined and cleaned
Salt to taste
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
For the masala:
Grated coconut – ½ cup
Red chillies – 5-6 (increase or decrease as per spice tolerance)
Tamarind – 1 small marble sized ball
For the fish fry:
Mackerel / Bangda / Raju – 8 nos
Red chilli powder – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Juice of half lemon
Rice powder – to coat
Oil – for frying
Method:
  1. Grind the ingredients called for masala with little water if necessary. Mix with salt and shrimps. Saute this masala in coconut oil for 3-4 mins till it is dry and can be stuffed inside fish.
  2. Make a huge slit in mackerel sideways and clean it well. Also, make some light slits all over the body.
  3. Marinate with Red chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and lemon juice.
  4. Stuff the shrimp masala and keep in refrigerator for atleast 10-15 mins.
  5. Roll the fish in rice powder and shallow fry on a tawa by covering for some time Flip the fish so that both sides are well cooked. I used coconut oil to fry.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges and chillies.

Hilsa is an integral part of a Bong’s existence. Wikipedia says “In many Hindu Bengali families two Hilsa fishes (Joda Ilish) are bought on special auspicious days, like some pujas. It is considered auspicious to buy two Hilsa fishes on the day of Saraswati Puja, which takes place in the beginning of Spring and also on the day of Lakshmi Puja which takes place in autumn.”

Living in Bangalore, we only look at this fish through the glass pane in Fish Stall to please our Bong satiation. Do I hear people asking ‘Why???’ Answer to the ‘Wh’ question goes – ‘Coz we don’t think we are capable enough of digesting something as expensive as Rs.600-700 a kilo!’ Although once we put our digestive system to stake by giving in to buying Hilsa when the ‘Daily price chart read – Hilsa: Rs. 380’ Woohoo now I’m not claiming that 380 a kilo is cheap. But then we Indians are undisputed winners in bargaining. Idea of buying any trifle thing at a negligibly lower price makes us feel victorious. The men might disagree and say I’m trying to describe feminine nature under the label ‘Indians’. Okay, we women love the bargain game and admit it openly. But I personally feel that men secretly celebrate their triumphant bargains… What say?

Abbas had once brought home Padmar Ilish during Ma’s absence. He expressed his concerns (rather grave uncertainties) about how I was gonna cook something as exquisite as ‘Shorshe Ilish’. I was green with envy coz he so wanted ‘Maaaa…..’ to be there as I had never laid my hands on ‘Bangladesh’s National Fish’. It was a ‘Do or Die’ situation for the cook in me coz her reputation was at stake. A SOS call to Kakima (Bhabi’s Ma and my on-call help w.r.t any Bong dish) got me going. I was up early morning grinding mustard (a spice I always knew was used in nothing else but tempering my very own Rasams, Sambars and Chutneys) Oh! That too mustard that was white in colour was an enlightening fact. I made Shorshe Ilish and went to work. Abbas was supposed to have lunch and leave for office that day. I got an SMS from Abbas which read – “Darun hoyeche! Shorshe Ilish. I loved it. ________’ The blank line stands for the private lines we exchange, which I don’t think appropriate for all age groups. Lolz

Well guys, after trying several versions of this dish, I stick to the following tested version which wins me accolades from Abbas each time. (It is the easiest fish curry ever)

Ingredients:

Hilsa Fish – 5-6 pieces
Mustard paste – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Mustard Oil – 2 tbsp (Mandatory)

For Mustard paste:
White mustard seeds – tbsp (soaked in water for 15 minutes)
Green chillies – 5-6
Salt – 1 tsp

Method:
1. Grind the ingredients called for Mustard paste with as less water as possible to get a fine paste. I make bulk of this paste and refrigerate for future use, coz less quantity of mustard seeds doesnt yield a fine paste. This paste can be stored for 15- 20 days.

2. In a pan, mix a tbsp of mustard paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt (carefully add salt coz mustard paste already has salt in it), mustard oil with a cup of water. Now place the fish pieces carefully in this mixture.

3. Cook on low flame covered with a lid for about 20 minutes or till you get a thick gravy. (Hilsa gets cooked in a jiffy.)

4. Remove the pan from flame and pour a tbsp of mustard oil on top and keep covered until served.

Kane (pronounced as kaa-nay) is a delicacy in coastal Karnataka. I remember whenever guests would drop by our home in Kundapura, Annu (dad) would buy kilos of fresh catch and amma would prepare Nogli Ambat (Fish curry) and/or this Rava fry. We children would be served first and always given smaller and lesser pieces to ensure the guests always got enough good pieces. When we would bombard our wrath filled looks at Amma at this injustice, she would politely and smirkly say “You always get to eat this fish. But they never do.” I even recall one of the guests saying that his Dad always told him “Son, before you die make sure you have eaten Kane in Kundapur”. During Diwali the price of this fish in Coastal belt would sky rocket. Coz people have a custom where they have an oil bath. The fish is also given an oil bath where it is deep fried. After marriage, I only cherished the memories of this favourite of mine and never had a chance to indulge in its divine taste when in Kolkata. Now that I am in Chennai and Abbas is in Bangalore, he looked for this fish in the markets and located a vendor who sells it. Finally my inner soul’s thirst for this fish was quenched after 4 long years.
Ingredients
5 Lady fish – clean and make slits on both sides
Rava / Semolina for coating
Oil for frying

 For marination
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp lemon juice
salt to tase

Method
Marinate the fish with ingredients called for marination so that the masala has penetrated into the slits well. Keep aside for an hour in the refrigerator.
Coat the marinated fish in rava. This fish could be deep fried. (In that case keep the rava coated fish in refreigerator for atleast an hour, so that most of the rava sticks to the fish even when deep fried.) I fried the fish in a non stick tava with less oil, tatsted great this way too.
Four years of ‘judaai’ made me gobble 5 whole fish at a shot and I still yearned for more.

This is one of Abbas’ favorites. Pomfret fish cooked in a spicy mustard paste, a delight to relish.

Ingredients:
Pomfret fish – 3 medium sized, cut into two pieces
Onion – 1 medium sized
Tomato – 1 medium sized
Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Green chillies – 2-3
White Mustard – 2 tsp
Turmeric pwd – 1 tsp
Red chilli pwd – 1 tsp
Onion seeds(kalaunji) – 1/2 tsp
Mustard oil (Any other oil may be used but mustard oil gives any Bengali dish an authentic taste)
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

1. Clean the fish and marinate with salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
2. Deep fry in oil and keep aside.

3. Grind together mustard seeds, green chillies and salt.
4. Use 2 tsp of the same oil to cook the dish.
5. In a pan, heat oil. Add onion seeds.
6. Add onion and saute till they turn golden brown.
7. Add ginger garlic paste, saute till raw smell goes off.
8. Add chopped tomatoes and saute till oil starts oozing out.
9. Add mustard paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and saute well.
10. Add 1 cup of water, adjust salt at this stage. Add fried fish and bring the gravy to boil.
11. The gravy must be think in consistency. Add chopped corainder leaves.