It’s been a while since I shared my last recipe. We have been travelling a lot. An European trip always brings smiles to our faces as we explore the culture, nature and the cuisine of a faraway land. We loved the cuisines in Italy and Switzerland and tried many local dishes and wines. We never looked out for an Indian restaurant as we enjoyed what we ate there. But as soon as we boarded the flight for Mumbai, the first thought of home-sweet-home was a piping hot Macher Jhol on our dining table! Bengalis love fish, you see.
Bengalis call them fish, not seafood. In fact, most of the traditional Bengalis don’t like seafood (sea-fish, as we call it), except for Hilsa (Ilish), Bele, Rupchand, etc. We Bengalis are fond of sweet-water or river-water fish, such as Rohu (Rui), Katla and Mrigel. And there are tasty fish varieties in between: the ones that are caught from Estuaries. These are semi-saltwater fish, like the flavourful Gurjali or the Indian Salmon. Gurjali is also known as Rawas or Ravas in Hindi.
So, I made this humble Gurjali Macher Jhol, as I recovered from the jet-lag. I could have cooked this fish without onion or garlic, which is one of the most preferred ways of cooking fish in Bengali style, but I wanted to eat a stronger and spicy Macher Jhol. These baby Gurjali fish made our homecoming special and helped our “Bengali-food-deprived” tastebuds readjust to Indian flavours again. Gosh, that day, we ate copious amounts of rice!
Although the flavour of a good Shrimp Risotto still lingers and reminds us of our awesome recent trip to Italy, this humble Bengali Macher Jhol and Bhaat reminded me again of the wonderful cuisine that I grew up eating. Bangla cuisine expands itself and merges with Bengali traditions and the love of Ma–Thakuma (mother and grandmother). By the way, if you watched the recent Bengali Movie called “Macher Jhol,” you will exactly relate to what I am trying to say here.
The big-sized Gurjali fish is always chopped into smaller pieces. But if it is a baby Gurjali, the fishmonger will just halve it after cleaning. Here’s my recipe for Gurjali Macher Jhol.
Gurjali Macher Jhol (Bengali-Style Fish Curry with Indian Salmon or Rawas)
- Indian Salmon/Rawas/Gurjali fish 1 kg: 4
- Garlic minced: 1 tsp
- Kalonji/Kalo Jeere/Nigella seed paste Kalojeere bata: ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder: 1.5 tsp
- Salt: 3.5 tsp
- Mustard oil: ½ cup
- Tomatoes finely chopped: 1 cup
- Slit green chillies: 4
- Coriander-leaf paste: 1 tbsp
- Warm water: 3.5 cups
- Chop each fish into half. Marinate with around 2.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric powder for 30 min.
- Fry the fish in hot mustard oil. The flame should be at medium. A good fried fish is the one where the skin is intact and the fish is not overcooked. Remove the fish and keep aside.
- In the same oil, add the Nigella seed paste and garlic mince and sauté for a while. Now add the tomato paste, rest of the salt and turmeric powder.
- When oil starts leaving from the tomatoes, add ½ cup warm water and stir continuously.
- Add the fried fish and coat the fish pieces with the tomato paste cooking in the Kadhai.
- Add the chillies and the coriander paste and flip the fish pieces once.
- After 2 min, add the rest of the warm water.
- Stir the contents gently. Cover and boil for 10 min on a low flame. Adjust the salt at this stage, if required.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.