Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chitol macher muthiya..

Did you ever had an online crash course on cutting and dressing the fish, and that too when you are ready with the fish on the chopping board? I did that last Sunday, with the chitol mach (giant feather back fish) waiting on the chopping board and was on an chat with my friend Bandana di. Thanks a lot Bandana di for all the help.

Last time I made Chitol mach-er muthiya was 8 yrs ago in Kolkata, where the fish sellers readily cut the fish  as per your need and direction. When I saw fresh chitol mach (giant feather back fish) in our local Asian grocery store in Austin, so I jumped (not literally though) and without even giving a thought about the cutting and pre-cooking preparations involved in this dish. I knew Bandana di would be there to help me out.
Chitol mach (scientific name Chitala chitala) or the giant feather back fish is prepared in a very unique way in the Bengali households. The belly of chitol fish is used for making  the usual fish curries. The back/dorsal part is used to make fish balls or dumplings and the resulting curry called  the Chitol maacher Muthiya is absolutely delicious. This dumpling making process involves several steps and as traditionally the Chitol fish meat balls are shaped with the palm of the hand by pressing the fist, the preparation is called muthiya (fist). The back/dorsal part of the fish is full of thin fish bones, the trick is to scrape out the fish meat without those bones. I have tried to explain the whole process exactly the way I  did. After making the dumplings or fish balls I made a curry (kaliya) with them following my mom's recipe. 

Things needed to make Chitol macher muthiya:

  • Chitol mach(giant feather back fish):
  • Onion (grated): 2 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger paste: 1 tbsp
  • Tomato(chopped): 1
  • Boiled potato(mashed): 1/4 cup
  • Potato: 1 large
  • Green chili paste: 1/2 tsp
  • Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1-2 tsp
  • Cumin powder: 1 tsp
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon: 2 sticks
  • Green cardamom: 3-4
  • Cloves: 3-4
  • Cumin seeds: 1/2 tsp
  • Bay leaves: 2-3
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Ghee/Clarified butter: 1 tsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp

Steps of making Chitol macher muthiya:

1. Take the back/dorsal part of the fish. Slice through both sides of the fish spine so as to isolate the spine,   Lay the fish flat, scrape the fish meat out with a spoon. Scrape in the same direction as the bones are pointing to otherwise you will end up with lot of fish bones in the scrapings. I have explained the process of scraping the fish through several pictures below.

Take only the back/dorsal part

Slice both side of the fish spine

Scrape with a spoon

Move spoon in the direction of the bones are pointing to
2. After the scraping is done, recheck the fish meat whether any fish bone is left in that or not. If any, discard them.

3. Add boiled mashed potato, grated onion(1 tsp), garlic paste(1/4 tsp), ginger paste(1/4 tsp), salt, turmeric powder(a pinch), red chili powder, green chili paste(optional).

4. Mix them well.

5. Rub some oil on both the palms, take a fistful of the mixture and make fish balls.

6. Boil water in deep pan. As the water rolls to boil add the fish balls.

7. Let the fish balls cook for 4-5 mins, when the fish balls are done they will start floating on the water. Take out and let it cool down before handling. Cut the dumplings into desired shape. I cut each diagonally into two pieces 

8. Take a deep pan, heat mustard oil. Mustard oil is must for this dish. But if you do not get mustard oil, use other vegetable oil, but the flavor will not be the same. When the oil is hot, fry the fish dumplings to red-brown color. Take out from oil and keep aside.

9. In the same oil, fry the peeled and quartered potato pieces, till golden brown. Take out and keep aside.

10. In the same oil(if needed add more), add bay leaves, whole spices and cook till the spices release a nice aroma. Add grated onion along with a teaspoon of sugar, cook over medium heat till the onions takes a red color. Add garlic paste and ginger paste, mix well and cook for 2-3 min. Add chopped tomatoes, sprinkle salt, cover and cook till tomatoes are done. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, red chili powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well and cook till oil separates. Add hot water and let it boil. As the water boils add fried potatoes and salt. Cover and cook for 4-5 min. Add the fried fish dumplings, cover and cook till potatoes are done. Add ghee/clarified butter and garam masala powder.

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  1. uff!! darun.. tomar anek patience... ekdom scratch theke korecho.. by the way who is th photographer of each step? :)

  2. Thanks, it was 'He' dressing the fish and me taking the pics :)

  3. Hello from the Philippines! I've been looking all over for directions on how to prepare Chitol. Thanks for providing such clear instructions. I cook indian food that I learned from friends from Rajahstan and Udipor. Now I look forward to trying out yummy dishes from Kolkata!