It’s common knowledge that Bengalis love to eat and feed. If you visit a friend’s residence in Kolkata or West Bengal over lunch, you will be treated to a countless number of dishes, including fish items. And yes, Bengal is famous not only for Rasgulla but also for a variety of fish and the different flavourful curries. Here are a few traditional fish curries of Bengal that any ‘khaddyo roshik bangali’ (Bengali foodie) would fall hook, line and sinker for.
Chingri Malai Curry
Bengal special Chingri Macher Malai Curry or Prawn cooked in coconut milk is a delicacy that Bengalis take pride in. And it is not at all easy to pull off perfectly as the fish preparation seems simple but requires practice. To prepare this delicious curry, you will have to:
• Visit your nearby fish market and get about 500 gms of fresh jumbo prawns
• Get back home and clean the prawns (leave the head on but deveined)
• Then take a wide bowl and begin by marinating the prawns with some turmeric powder, salt and red chilli powder. Keep it aside for about half an hour.
• Meanwhile, take a pan and temper the cardamom and bay leaves in mustard oil. Once they start crackling, add in silted green chillies and ginger paste.
• Reduce the flame and fry for at least 2 minutes. Keep stirring, so the paste doesn’t burn.
• Next, add in sugar, salt, turmeric and chilli powder, and mix everything well.
• Then add coconut milk and grated coconut and lower the heat.
• Take another pan and heat oil. Add the marinated prawns and fry them on medium heat.
• Add in the fried prawns to the coconut mixture and leave it on simmer for about five minutes.
• Garnish Chingri Malai Curry with some chopped fresh coriander leaves and serve it with steamed rice.
There’s an authentic way of name-calling or identify if a Bengali is ‘Ghoti’ or ‘Bangal’ (social sub-groups indicate the ancestral origin of a Bengali family). Asking a Bengali to choose between Ilish (Hilsa fish) and Chingri (Prawn) is one of the ways to tag if s/he is a ‘Ghoti’ or ‘Bangal’. Coming back to Sorshe Ilish or Hilsa cooked in Mustard gravy, it is another famous delicacy that cannot be more blissful to have with a plate of hot steamed rice. Let’s see how to prepare it.
• Get a kg of Ilish mach or Hilsa fish
• Rub the pieces with some salt and turmeric powder. Keep aside.
• Prepare the Mustard paste by taking one tablespoon of black mustard seeds and one tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds, green chillies and salt. Grind everything together and make a thick paste out of it.
• Heat mustard oil in a deep pan or kadai until the oil changes colour.
• Once the oil is ready, add in turmeric and red chilli powder and salt.
• Temper hot oil with Nigella seed.
• Pour mustard paste, turmeric powder, green chillies, red chilli powder and water into the mixture and boil it on medium flame.
• Now add in fish pieces slowly to the mixture and cook it on low flame with lid on for at least 10 minutes.
• Uncover the pan and pour 1 teaspoon of raw mustard oil on the gravy and boil it for another 2-3 minutes.
• Take it off the heat and serve Sorshe ilish with steamed rice.
Bhetki Macher Paturi is a Bengali-style Barramundi fish traditionally cooked by wrapping in a banana leaf. These Bhetki fish pieces, wrapped in banana leaf and smothered in mustard paste, melt in the
mouth and leave a smoky flavour. To try out this recipe:
• Marinate the bhetki mach or Barramundi fish pieces with some turmeric powder and salt in a bowl.
• Make a paste by adding mustard seeds, poppy seeds, green chillies, a little water to a mixer grinder. Keep aside.
• Next, take a wide bowl and add in grated coconut, the paste, salt and turmeric powder. Mix them well.
• Cover and keep the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour.
• Meanwhile, rub the fish pieces with a teaspoon of mustard oil.
• Warm banana leaves over an open flame for 30 seconds. Put the glossy sides of the leaves up over a plate and rub a little mustard oil on it.
• After an hour, take out the mixture from the fridge and spread a teaspoon of it in the centre of the banana leaf.
• Place one piece of fish on the paste and put another teaspoon of paste on the top of the fish pieces. After covering both sides, place a green chilli on top of it and fold the banana leaf till it resembles a square parcel. Tie the same with thread, so the parcels do not open while cooking.
• Next, take a non-stick pan and grease some oil on it. Place the banana leaf-wrapped fish pieces on it and close the pan with a heavy lid and cook on medium heat for 8-9 minutes on each side.
• Serve the freshly prepared steamed hot bhetki macher paturi with plain steamed rice.