Rui Macher Vada

They say when in Rome, act like a Roman. But, that does not go much for me here in Bangalore. I can’t much act like a Bangalorean. I still crave for fish and I still didn’t fall in love with curry leaves.

I truly believe what Sandip exclaims – maache bhaate Bangali (Fish and rice makes a Bengali). The smell of sautéed onions in macher jhol or sound of spluttering kalo jeera – will surely drive any fish lover crazy.

I still miss the sabji diye macher jhol. Even though I prepare it in my Bangalore home with Andhra rohu, there is no match to the fresh catch from the nearby pond in Kolkata. I miss the freshness of the local pond fishes. The fishes are mostly cold stored and comes to the market almost after 7 days after being caught. Any idea where to get fresh catch in Bangalore?

The not-so-fresh fishes do not add any taste to non-spicy curries, the only way of cooking such fishes is to make a curry with onions, garlic and ginger. I figured out, another way – fish fritters. I have fried the macher vada. If you are calorie conscious, you can also bake it after painting each fritter with little oil or fat. You can use this mix also to make patol-er korma or use it as a stuffing for sandwiches and burgers.

Ingredients:

200 gms rohu or any other fresh water fish
1 large potato, boiled and mashed
1 tablespoon rice flour
1 tablespoon semolina
1 medium size onion, chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
A few sprigs of coriander leaves (optional), chopped
3-4 green chilies
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Preparation:

• Boil the fish pieces and carefully take out the bones
• Mix with the mashed potato and all other ingredients except the oil
• Make 1” balls with both your palms
• Press the balls from either side to make a flattened shape of half-inch width
• Heat oil in a frying pan
• As the oil gets piping hot, set the fritters to fry one side at a time
• Turn over as one side becomes almost brown in color
• Take out of flame and drain the excess oil patting with a kitchen towel
• Serve hot with tomato sauce and drinks of your choice

Hot Tips – If you want to make it as a burger filling, then prepare the balls larger in size. For making a fish bhurji, fry the onions first then add all other ingredients.

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Chingri Aam Kasundi

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Monsoon has set sail in almost all parts of India, and hilsa, the monsoon queen has arrived in truck loads in the fish markets. But, this fish doesn’t come cheap, a kilogram ranges from 300 INR to 800 INR in India and almost 3-6$ for a pound in US. In spite of that hilsa makes it to the lunch plate in Bengali home.

While eating hilsa during monsoon is almost like a ritual among Bengali, another fish has its stand all through the year. Ask any Biologist, he’ll say its not a fish but a mere insect belonging to the same class as cockroaches and milipedes.  Oops, did you ever thing about that while having prawns/shrimps. I hope not.

Chingri maach (prawn fish) is one of the most loved “fishes” among all fish eaters. Fried or curried shrimps and prawns has its own place among the fish lovers. Whether, you put it in a gourd curry or steamed with mustard paste, shrimps/prawns are just unique to taste. And, when talking about chingri, how can we forget the irresistible authentic Bengali recipe – the chingrir malaikari.

Debjani Chaudhuri, our todays guest has sent a rather different recipe for preparing prawns. The tangy and tasty preparation has loads of mustard paste and raw mangoes to get that familiar yet so different taste of the prawns. Try Debjani’s achari murgh.

Ingredients:

  • 250 gms Prawns (washed and deveined).
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of yellow and black mustard seeds
  • 1 raw mango
  • 4-5 Green chilies
  • 3 tablespoon mustard oil
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • A pinch of turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch sugar

 

Preparation:

  • Grind the mustard seeds with 1-2 green chilies, coconut (if adding), and a pinch of salt and little water. Keep aside.
  • Smear the prawns with little salt and turmeric and keep covered.
  • Heat the oil and add 1-2 green chilies, when splutter, add the prawns.
  • Sauté on low for a couple of minutes or till the prawns turn a little coral in color.
  • Add the raw mango and a pinch of salt.
  • Keep mixing with a very light hand till the raw smell of the mangoes is gone.
  • Add the mustard paste and turmeric.
  • Give it a good mix and cook on low heat, till it coats the prawns.
  • Add 1 cup water.
  • Mix, add sugar and salt and if required chili powder.
  • Cover and let it simmer on low till all the water evaporates and the gravy coats the prawns.
  • Turn off the gas and pour in a serving bowl before it become too thick.
  • Treat your taste buds with hot and tangy Chingri Aam Kashundi.

 

Hot Tips – I personally like to keep the head for more flavors. One can omit according to wish. On un-availability of mustard paste, you can add kashundi. Add 3tsp of kashundi. I have cut it into small cubes, you can use it grated. You can add 3 tablespoon of grated coconut to balance the pungency of mustard n tart of green mango.

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Chocolate Brownie Cupcake with Vanilla Icecream and Chocolate sauce

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Have you ever had that feeling of having something right that very moment? At times I get these freaky cravings of having something sweet.

It was almost midnight when I had one such seizure a couple of day’s back, this time it was for something chocolate. Here in Bangalore stepping out of the house to search for some open shop/ restaurant after 11.30pm is like searching for the blue moon. But, I had to have something with chocolate. There were no chocolate bars at home, so I took upon the task to prepare some chocolate brownies. After an entire day of work, it’s really a little tiresome to bake chocolate brownies, but nevertheless I tried to bake the easiest chocolate brownie that comes to mind.

30mins of working in the kitchen and I had a batch of a dozen chocolate brownie ready. I had tried preparing chocolate cakes in microwave previously, but they didn’t come out so spongy. This time, I didn’t take the chance and baked it in the oven.

I was a bit anxious as the brownies were eggless, but I using two bananas really helped. The inside was soft and layered, and yes of course my little brownie cupcakes really quenched my thirst of chocolate that night.

Preparation time: 10mins
Baking time: 10min for a batch of 6 brownie cupcakes
Makes 12 brownie cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour/ maida
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup drinking chocolate
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 small bananas
  • 400ml milk
  • 100gms unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A handful of walnuts/ pecans

Preparation:

  • In a bowl mix the dry ingredients together the dry ingredients and keep aside
  • In another bigger size bowl mash the bananas finely, pour in half the milk, and butter; whisk till it froths
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients to the milk and fold in. Pour in more milk as and when required
  • The batter should be little thick, but not very dry. Add the walnuts/ pecan to the batter
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Pour the batter in equal proportions to the cupcake tray
  • Bake for about 10mins, or till a skewer inserted comes out clean
  • Let it cool for a couple of minutes before you gorge on those

Hot Tips – I used cupcake tray to bake the brownies, if you wish you can pour the patter in a baking tray and cut according to your wish once it’s done.

The chocolate brownies tasted best next day, when I had it with some ice-cream and chocolate sauce.

These sinful choco brownies goes to “Only Baked” event by Harini and also to Kid’s Delight – Mini Bites hosted by Champa.

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Fulkopir Datar Tarkari – Cauliflower Stem Curry

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Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables you can get out of a Bangali rannaghor (Bengali kitchen). Whether it’s a simple phulkopir tarkari (Bengali style cauliflower curry) or a cauliflower pickle – cauliflowers are everywhere, even in fish curries.

The gorging of cauliflowers starts from Durga Puja and extends till late March. I have seen mom cooking fulkopir tarkari as a part of the Prasad offered to Durga Ma on Ashtami (the 8th day of the annual Durga Puja worship).  The simple cauliflower and potato preparation seasoned with cumin and ginger paste is just the right side dish for kichdi/ kichuri.

Now, these cauliflower preparations are done with the florets. Most of the time we throw away the stem that comes along with the fulkopi. But, a very traditional and authentic Bengali recipe is with these stems of the cauliflower, fulkopir data chauchori/ chachori.

Chachori is a unique style of preparing curries. Mostly, the vegetables are mostly cut longitudinally and cooked with a concoction of spices, especially panch phoron if it’s a vegetarian preparation. For non-vegetarian ones like morola macher chachori onions, garlic are widely used. Any idea where the word comes from? In fulkopir data chachori the stems are cut to 1” long pieces and if they are too thick then the stems are cut longitudinally.

One of my friends once told that you Bengalis just don’t leave any part of anything – you eat everything. Yeah, it’s kind of true. From peels of gourd to flowers of plantain – Bengalis like to taste everything.

Serves 2
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: 15min

Ingredients: 

  • Stems of one medium cauliflower
  • 1 medium size potato
  • 1 cup chopped pumpkin
  • 1 cup chopped small brinjal, cut longitudinally in quarters
  • 1 tablespoon panch phoron
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon mustard oil

Preparation:

  •  Boil the cauliflower stems till half done, then blanch in cold water to stop further cooking
  • Heat oil in a wok, throw in the panch phoron. As the spices starts sputtering add potatoes, brinjal and pumpkin pieces.
  • Fry for sometimes, put in the spices and ginger paste and cook for 2-3mins more
  • Add the half boiled stems
  • Pour in water and cook covered till the vegetables are cooked
  • Serve hot with warm rice.

Hot Tips – Panch phoron is a mixture of 5 different spices in equal proportion – fennel, fenugreek, mustard, nigella and wild celery.

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Hilsa Fry in Microwave

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I have never gone to any Fish market (macher bajar) other than in Kolkata (in Bangalore I like shopping my kitchen requirements at Spencer’s), and so am not aware of the non-Kolkata Macher Bajar scene. The mud-spattered floors of the fish market,  big chunks of ice being crushed in gunny bags, the fishy smell (which is actually a mix of smells of 20 different fish types) hovering all over and the shouts and calls from all the vendors gives the fish market its distinct feel. Bengalis love fish and to top it, Bongs love buying fish from those dirty fish markets.

I am sure there aren’t any fish markets in any part of India that can compete with the variety of fishes sold in fish stalls in Bengal. Fishes from the nearby ponds, fishes from rivers, fishes from seas – you name it and it will sure be available there. There are different seasons where some fishes are available predominantly; monsoon brings one such fish that you can call the “Queen of fishes”, the quintessential Ilish, or Hilsa. This sea fish comes to the river for laying eggs, their flesh gets sweetened by the fresh water of the river and that’s the best catch. Hilsa from the Ganges and Padma are world famous.

Hilsa costs a fortune so to say, the last time I went to the market a couple of days back it was 500INR per kilogram. But, price doesn’t make the fish lovers stay away from this silver delicacy. The shiny silvery colors with a pinkish tinge on its dorsal side make this fish a discrete item among all other fishes. Other than fish Bengalis have another obsession, its football, and nothing can better the fish football combo. It has almost become a custom for the fans of East Bengal Club (a county football club in Kolkata, for the uninitiated) to celebrate the team’s wins with a platter of Ilish. I’m not sure of the origin of this combo. If you know about the relationship, I request you to comment about the connection between East Bengal’s wins and hilsa.

The softness of its flesh and its awesome taste has made it the queen among all fishes. But, some people who are not so much efficient on taking out bones from fishes like to stay away from hilsa. So, to end this problem Marco Polo, a fine dining restaurant in Kolkata and now nationwide popular restaurant Oh! Calcutta had been hosting festival for Boneless Hilsa, not sure though how it will taste.

Fish is indispensable in any Bengali celebration, and if the festival / celebration is in the monsoons, Hilsa is always present at the dinner table. There are scores of different dishes prepared with Ilish –  Ilish Bhapa, Ilish pulao, Ilish macher  jhol, and many others. But the most quick and easy one is the fried hilsa. A tablespoon of the oil in which the fish was fried with warm rice and a piece of the fried fish – I’m sure any Bengali would give up his tooth and eyes to have such a platter.

I had seen my mom frying fish in the same old wok since the time I used to peek into her kitchen. This time I thought of trying out something new. I fried the hilsa in microwave. It turned out to be a success, the quantity of oil for frying was also less and was hassle free, that’s the best part of microwave cooking, I believe.

What’s your Ilish memory?

Preparation time: 2 min
Cooking time: 8 min
Makes 4 fish fries
 
Ingredients:
  • 4 pieces hilsa/ilish fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoon Mustard Oil
  • Salt to taste

Preparation:

  • Wash the fish pieces and put it in an open microwave safe bowl
  • Coat the hilsa pieces with turmeric powder and salt
  • Add the mustard oil over the fish
  • Put the bowl in microwave oven and microwave high (800watts) for 7 – 8mins
  • Serve hot with warm rice

Hot Tips – You can also cook it in an wok, take a little more oil than mentioned here and heat it in a wok. Gently slide the fish into the wok and fry one side at a time turning it once the side has become brown and cooked.

Further Reading – Bengal-Hilsa, Ilish Curry

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Sabji Diye Macher Jhol

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Some years back, I had gone to Shimla with my parents and younger sister, who had just got promoted to first standard. 3 days we stayed at the Hotel Oberoi Cecil in Shimla. The gorgeous hotel with its lavish spread, I was in love with the hotel. But, from the second day onwards my kid sister started craving for ma-er macher jhol (fish curry – mom’s style). So much so that on the second day she entered the kitchen and went to the chef asking to prepare a fish curry with potatoes. And, there from the Oberoi kitchen came out, which nobody expected – a fish curry similar to what mom always cooks at home.

I later reasoned that she asked for that non spicy fish curry which was familiar. This happens to almost all of us. A Bengali staying in New York will surely know the address of the nearest Bengali restaurant.

At home, back in Kolkata, a summer lunch always consist of shukto, dal and fries, a vegetable curry and of course a non vegetarian gravy dish that might include fish, egg or meat, but preferably fish. The fish in most days is prepared with the minimum amount of spices keeping in mind the hot and humid weather of the Tropics.

The mom made fish curry is something that can’t be matched with anything on earth. Whether you visit one of the finest fine-dining or the neighborhood restaurant, I have never found any restaurant providing with the typical daily meals.

I have visited Bengali restaurants in Bangalore from Oh! Calcutta, St. Mark’s Road to Bangaliana, Koramangala just in search of that typical rui mahcer jhol (rohu curry) with lots of vegetables. But, never did I find it. So, here am back to my kitchen trying to reproduce mom’s style fish curry. Click on this link for more such authentic Bengali recipe.

sServes 4
Preparation time 10min
Cooking time 12-15 min

Ingredients:

  • 4 fillets of rohu or catla (fresh water fishes)
  • 1 six-inch ridge gourd
  • 1 medium potato
  • 4-5 florets of cauliflower
  • 2-3 pointed gourd
  • 1 teaspoon nigella/kalonji
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 bay leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Few sprigs of coriander leaves (optional)

Preparation:

  • Cut all the vegetables longitudinally, wash, mix with little turmeric powder and salt
  • Heat about 2 tablespoon of oil in a wok and toss the vegetables till lightly fried, keep aside
  • Wash the fish fillets well, and mix them with turmeric and salt. Drain out the extra water
  • Pour in another 2 tablespoon of oil in the wok and as the oil get piping hot fry the fish fillets till the fish is soft and tender
  • Add all the spices except nigella in a bowl and mix with water to make a smooth mixture
  • Take in 1 tablespoon of fresh mustard oil in the wok, throw in the nigella and bay leaves
  • As the spices start sputtering pour in the spice mixture and little water
  • Stir well till the oil separates
  • Add the vegetables and mix with the spices
  • Toss for a little while (1-2 mins) and pour in about 2 cups of water
  • As the vegetables get almost cooked add the fried fishes and  cook till the gravy sips inside the fish
  • Serve garnished with coriander with warm white rice

Hot Tips – You can use bhetki instead of rohu or catla for the same preparation. The shape of vegetables has a good percentage in deciding the taste and texture of this fish curry. So, while chopping the veggies keep in mind to slice them to almost same sizes.

I have used four different vegetables in this rohu curry, if you don’t get all of these you can just use a combination of any of the four.

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