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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.
- 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
- 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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Bengalis or Bangali are branded with their love for fish. Be it the Bangals, who crossed the borders from East Pakistan, now Bangladesh and reached India or the Ghotis who actually lived in West Bengal even before the Indian partition in 1947. Bangals and Ghotis will shout in unison for their love for fish. Fish is like a part of the Bangali society, an integral part of the Bengali culture and cuisine, something indispensible. There can’t be a meal completed without the serving of a fish curry or at least a fried fish. But with our generations getting pretty lazy of cooking fish (rather the task of entering the kitchen) or too busy with the other important things in life; having fish has become a run to the nearest restaurants. Great Bong has something to say about this dying trait of Bangali.
Both my parents’ families are Bangal, and that makes me a pure BangalJ, and that is surely reflected in the ways I cook and the food I like. I am an avid lover of “shutki maach” (dried fish). I can barter my tooth and nails for a morsel of shutki maach cooked in dry gravy. When we talk about shutki maach, Bombay duck or loitta or lotiya maach can’t be left behind. This fish with its pungent smell when dried is a winner among all kinds of dried fishes. For those who have not tried having dry fish, I warn you, it’s not for the weak at heart.
Now, don’t get carried away with the dry fish, I’m not writing a recipe for shutki maach, but it’s a recipe for the crispy mouthwatering fritters made with fresh Bombay duck. This very soft and delicate fish looks divinely pinkish white when fresh and you can definitely identify it from other fishes sold because it is scale-less, and never have I seen it alive at the fish stalls (have you?). Though the wiki page on Bombay duck claims it to be a pungent smelling fish, I would rather disagree to it. Loitta even lacks the fishy smell unlike other fishes sold in the markets.
This morning when I put up a small note on the Cook Like a Bong Facebook fan page for the loitta vada post, I never thought that the fish was so popular every where. Within no item there were comments streaming on that little note. There are many ways loitta is cooked in different households, but apparently the lotiya bora being the most popular one. Its better if you get the fish fresh and cleaned from the market for the preparation, but if that is not possible then the canned fishes are always there.
- Bombay duck (Loitta/ lotiya): ½ kg, cut and cleaned
- Onion (Peyaj): 2 medium size, julienned
- Green chili (Kancha lanka): 3/ 4, chopped into small pieces
- Gram flour (Besan): ½ cup
- Poppy seed (Posto): 2 teaspoon
- Rice Flour (atta): 1 tablespoon
- Oil for frying
- Salt to taste
- Boil water and steam the fishes till gently tender, transfer in a colander so that all the water gets drained out
- Mix all the ingredients excepting the oil to a large bowl and make small fritter
- Fry the fritters in shallow oil till both sides turn brown
- Drain out the excess oil from the fritters with kitchen paper
- Serve hot with sauce or with rice and dal
Hot Tips – If the batter seems too gooey then put in a little bit more of rice flour. The fish shouldn’t be over boiled; else the fritters will loose the crispiness.
Further Readings – Dimer Vada (Egg fritters), Macher Dimer Vada (Roe fritters)
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