Thursday, February 18, 2016

Aar Machher Jhol - Another Bengali Fish Curry

As a child I hadn't eaten many varieties of fish beyond Rui and Katla, Chingri (prawns), and the occasional Ilish, Pabda, and Tyangra. Fresh water fish was available in Mumbai but the variety was quite limited. Thus my education about the immense variety of fish that is cooked in Bengali households was very severely lacking. It didn't help that not much other than Rui and Katla was cooked in my Didin's (mom's mom) kitchen so my exposure to fish was limited even in Kolkata, and since I was not an adventurous kid as far as food was concerned, I would refuse to eat any unfamiliar fish at other relatives' houses too.

My interest in food started when I was in the hostel in Pune while studying archaeology. I often cooked simple meals on a hot plate with basic vessels and a frugal pantry. Then I met the hubby and my exploration of food began in earnest. Eventually we married and have finally ended up living in Kharghar, a remote suburb in Navi Mumbai.

The best thing about life in Kharghar is my fish monger. Operating from a shop about 15 minutes away from my house, this fellow has a huge variety of fresh water and sea water fish available daily. All I do is call up to find out what's available on the day and place my order. My fish comes home to me, cleaned and cut as I like, neatly packed. It is from here that I have discovered new varieties of fish that I had never even heard of, let alone eaten. And one of these, Aar maach, has become a favourite now. It's a large fatty fish, no scales, and has very few bones.

Since there was no point in calling up my mum and asking her for a recipe I turned to good old Google. After browsing a little I realised that the best way to cook this beautiful fish is in the traditional jhol style, with onions and tomatoes, ginger and garlic, and green chillies for zest. It's a very delicate fish that tends to break quite easily, so handle it with care while cooking.

Aar Machh'er Jhol

5 or 6 pieces of Aar (around 500gms)
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped fine or pureed
1 tbsp fresh ginger-garlic paste
2 fresh green chillies
2 small Indian bay leaves
red chilli powder
mustard oil

Wash the fish gently and drain all water. Sprinkle with salt and turmeric and set aside for 10 minutes. In the mean time you can slice the onion, chop the tomato, and pound the ginger and garlic into a paste.
Heat mustard oil in a thick bottomed kadai. Once properly hot fry the fish, one or two pieces at a time. Flip the pieces carefully to cook both sides. Remove from the oil when you see the first hints on browning on the fish pieces. Set aside.

In the same oil throw in the green chillies and the Indian bay leaves. Add in the sliced onions and a pinch of sugar. Stir well and fry till the onions start to brown. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for a minute. Keep the heat at medium throughout so things cook without burning. Add the tomato and cook further. Put in some turmeric, a teaspoon or so of chilli powder, and salt as required. Stir nicely to mix everything and let the spices cook properly.

Once the oil starts to separate from the mix pour in a generous cupful of water and bring it all to a boil. Slide in the fried pieces of fish and let the curry cook for another five minutes. Aar cooks quite fast so don't leave it to boil for too long.

Remove to a flat bottomed bowl and serve it with plain hot rice. Happiness will happen with the first mouthful :)

1 comment:

appu said...

Ooooooh this sounds lovely