Let me share with you this beautiful fish and vegetable medley called Choto Maacher Chocchori or Morola Maacher Chocchori. Bengalis love to cook vegetables and fish together: the Maacher Chocchori is just one of them. Choto Maacher Chocchori or Morola Maacher Chocchori is a rustic Bengali dish that is probably losing its popularity with time. For this dish, you can use any tiny fish used for Bengali cooking, such as Mourola (Morola), Kaachki (Kaski), Puti, Chyala, Kholshe and Chaanda. These are some of the popular Bengali names of choto maach or small fish (tiny, whole fish similar to anchovies) that are used in Bengali cuisine. Even tiny shrimps (Kucho chingri in Bengali) work fine for the recipe of Choto Maacher Chocchori! When you make this Chocchori with Morola fish, then we call it Morola Maacher Chocchori.
My Trips to Paharganj, New Delhi
I lived in Central Delhi for 20 years, where I grew up in a place called Gole Market. I loved visiting Paharganj with my mother: a popular market area near Gole Market. Paharganj had a humble charm of its own. Sometime around the year 1994, Paharganj was a very crowded market where you could literally find everything! In those narrow lanes, where hawkers and a crowd of customers compete for space to walk or even stand, where the cycle-rickshaws almost ran over the peddlers, where sighting a herd of buffaloes in the middle of a buzzing market wasn’t considered a surprise… surprisingly, there was a certain sense of comfort to roam around and shop for the essentials and the trivial stuff.
Paharganj had a character of its own and that set it apart. There would always be a Mehndiwali round the corner or people selling miscellaneous items in shops or carts. Somewhere around, one would find rainbow-hued duppattas getting freshly dyed for customers. You could easily bump into a row of salwar-kameez shops, jewellery shops, Tibetan products and probably Alladin’s lamp, too!
The Food Scene in Paharganj
And then, there was food. Non-descript eateries in Paharganj served the best Chinindian dishes ever. I could eat their Chowmein, Manchurian and Momos every day without a complaint. We always ate a samosa at a nearby favourite stall before stepping into a popular Golgappa and Chaat shop. After that, we would straightaway go to the old Bantawalla’s trolley, selling lemonade with soda, the Delhi way. There were shops selling outstanding pickles: the smell of which could make anyone salivate from a distance. The vegetable-sellers were equipped with all kinds of fresh vegetables and desi button mushrooms that somehow tasted way different than the ones that we have now. Among all this hustle-bustle, was a group of fish-mongers that Bengalis in the vicinity would always visit. They had so many Bengali customers that they almost started conversing in Bengali, although with little success. Unlike our parents, my younger sister and I rarely visited these shops unless there was a reason.
How my Perspective Changed
Sometimes, we did pay a visit to those places with our mother. My sister and I avoided visiting those stinky fish shops, but the lure of eating the samosa, Golgappa and the Chowmein kept us motivated. Besides, our parents were particular to introduce us about the variety of fresh fish available in the market and about choosing the right ones. From finding those stinky fish shops to be uncool and boring to being able to perceive those places as hidden gems, we did undergo a huge transition. It grew on us with time, just as our passion for food!
Choto maach or tiny fish is loved by the Bengalis because of the superb flavour, a certain kind of sweetness that they possess and because they are believed to be great for maintaining good eyesight!
On certain days, our mother would be so disappointed with the variety and quality. The fishmonger would promise to keep up to her expectations the next time. A few days later, we would hit the jackpot!
Finding Morola Fish in Paharganj
Didi, choto maach eseche, the fisherwoman would announce about the day’s catch in a shrill voice. My mother would buy a good amount of it after a thorough inspection. She would insist that my sister and I would touch and see the fish to know how fresh these were, but we (then teenagers) weren’t much keen yet, although we would already start dreaming about the dinner. We carried the jackpot home with utmost care: tiny Mourola and Chaanda Maach, almost alive and kicking!
Upon reaching home in the late evening, while we settled for our studies, our mother would clean each of these tiny little things with precision. She would first rub each of these tiny fish against a rough surface to get rid of the scales and then she would pinch off the intestines and wash them properly a few times. It felt quite arduous at that time and we wondered how and why she took so much effort to feed us the so-called “choto maach” or small fish. Upon asking, she would just tell us that it gave her immense pleasure to cook these exotic ingredients and rustic dishes for us and she told that when we would have our family one day, then we would probably do the same thing. We almost laughed it off. When we thought of the future, atleast we never saw ourselves cleaning tiny fish and putting in so much effort to feed to our future family!
But it did happen with time. And in 2020, here I am, ardently and smilingly cleaning each Mourola in my Mumbai kitchen and remembering the old days. I feel happy to cook this rustic Choto Maacher Chocchori | Morola Maacher Chocchori for my family. Mom was right. Moms are always right!
And whether my kids would make this dish when they have their family or whether these tiny fish would still exist in their times, I am happy that I gave them something that has been lovingly passed on from my grandmother to my mother to her daughter… that gift is the thread of culinary tradition.
Choto Maacher Chocchori | Morola Maacher Chocchori
- 200 g Tiny fish (Morola)
- 3 Medium-sized potato (chopped lengthwise into 6 pieces each): 3
- Around 200 g Brinjal (pieces should be of the same size and width as the potato pieces)
- 3 Medium-sized onion (sliced thinly)
- 2 Medium-sized tomato (sliced thinly)
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- ¾ cup Mustard oil
- 4 Slit green chillies
- ½ tsp Red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp Cumin seeds (optional)
- Clean the fish and discard the intestines. Wash them three times under the tap and then drain off the water. Marinate with ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp turmeric powder and 2 tsp mustard oil for 10 min.
- Heat ½ cup oil in a Kadhai or a pan. Once smoke comes out, reduce the flame to medium and LIGHTLY fry the fish in batches, making sure that you don’t break the fish. Set the fried fish aside.
- In the same oil, fry the brinjals with a pinch of salt and remove them when light golden. (It is important not to add all the oil together, as the brinjals would soak up all the oil, otherwise. So, we added oil in batches, for this recipe!)
- Add the remaining oil to the kadhai and heat till the smoking point. Add the cumin seeds (cumin seeds are optional). When the cumin seeds change colour slightly, then add the onions and the whole of salt. Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, green chillies, turmeric powder (dissolved in 4 tbsp water) and red chilli powder. Keep sautéing until oil starts leaving the edges of the Kadhai and the tomatoes become mushy.
- Add the potatoes and sauté the potatoes are almost cooked.
- Now add the fried fish and fried brinjal pieces. Keep cooking for the next 10 min on a high flame, sautéing after every 1 or 2 min. Check and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
- Enjoy this traditional Bengali Morola Chocchori with steamed rice.
Did you like reading this story and the recipe of Choto Maacher Chocchori? If you try the recipe, then do let me know on the comment below or on Instagram (@purabinaha). Thank you for stopping by!