Sunday, July 08, 2007

Kaalo Jire-r Maachher Jhol (aka Fish curry with black cumin seed seasoning)

As I write this from my parents' home in Calcutta, I know that there is so much to Bengali cuisine that I will never learn. In fact, the varieties of Bengali khaana will possibly die out with our mothers' generation - the chorchori, labra, mocha ghonto, shukto, will never be cooked in the modern nuclear cosmopolitan Bengali household. The grandmothers won't be there to recreate such magic, and perhaps we'd have to depend only on the annual food festivals of five-star hotels where we shall shell out huge sums of money to sample fare that was once a staple in our ancestors' houses.

Be that as it may, I begin this series of posts to commemorate pure Bengali cuisine from today. The reason is obvious, I am on holiday in Calcutta, and the food will not get any more Bengali from here! The first recipe is "Maachher Jhol", something that even someone from a place as distant as Guadaloupe would associate the quintessential Bengali with. The fish used is Rohu, or Rui (but can be made with most other river fish), and the dish is the very basic "Kaalo Jire-r Jhol."

Kaalo Jire (Black cumin seeds)
Rohu fish (cut into pieces)
Potatoes (peeled and cut lengthwise)
Green chillies
Turmeric powder
Red chilli powder

Cover the pieces of fish in turmeric powder and salt. Fry and keep aside. In a wok, heat some oil and add the black cumin seeds and slit green chillies to it. Take care not to overburn the cumin or else it will give a bitter flavour to your gravy. Add the potatoes to this and keep frying. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and fry for some more time. Add water and bring to boil. When the potatoes are almost done, add the fish pieces to this. Simmer for 5 more minutes and remove from heat. You can add coriander leaves to this in the simmer stage, it imparts a wonderful subtle flavour. Serve hot with rice.

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