Friday, May 3, 2013

Macher kaliya...a bong special fish curry

Fish is the most common source of protein in Bengali cuisine. No Bengali meal is complete without a fish. Fresh water sweet fish is a distinctive feature of Bengali cuisine. Bengal's countless rivers, ponds, lakes swarm with innumerable varieties of fishes; such as Rohu, Katla, Pabda, Koi, Tyngra, Hilsa etc and etc. More than 40 types of mostly freshwater fish are common, rohu and katla being the most common of them.

In a Bengali household at least one meal a day is certain to have a fish preparation. If you do not love rice and fish then you are not a true 'Bong'. Almost every part of the fish is eaten, the head (মুড়ো) is particularly preferred. There are numerous ways of cooking fish in Bengal, fried (bhaja), simple curries (jhol), semi-dry curries with mustard paste (sorse bata jhal), sour preparations (tok) with tamarind, steamed (bhapa) etc and etc. But one ingredient is a must for all Bengali fish preparation, that is mustard oil. To get the exact taste one should use mustard oil to prepare the fish, this pungent smelling oil brings a special flavor and taste to the dish. 

Today I made a special dish called Macher kaliya. Macher Kaliya is a fish curry with onion-yogurt based rich gravy and flavored with aromatic spices. There are several versions of Fish Kaliya, today I followed my mom-in-laws recipe for this. I love the way she cooks this dish. The crispy fried fish pieces dunked in spicy aroma loaded curry. You only need steamed hot rice to finish the last drop of this curry. Try to use pieces from a big matured fish (Rohu, Katla, Carp) with fat in them, and cook the dish in mustard oil.

Things needed to make Fish Kaliya:

  • Fish: 4 large pcs
  • Bay leaves: 1-2
  • Cinnamon: 1/2 stick
  • Green cardamom: 2-3
  • Cloves: 3-4
  • Onion (grated): 4 tbsp
  • Garlic paste: 1 tbsp
  • Ginger Paste: 1/2 tbsp
  • Yogurt: 1/4 cup
  • Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp + more to smear the fish
  • Cumin powder: 1/2 tbsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tbsp
  • Green chili paste: 1/2 tbsp (optional)
  • Kashmiri red chili powder: 1/2 tbsp
  • Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee/ clarified butter: 1 tsp
  • Mustard oil to cook
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tsp + to taste
  • Raisins to garnish

Steps of making Fish Kaliya:

1. Clean and wash the fish pieces, pat dry with a kitchen towel, smear salt and turmeric powder, let the fish marinate for 30-40 min.

2. Beat yogurt with 1 teaspoon sugar and little water. Keep aside.

3. In a small bowl add cumin powder, red chili powder, kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric powder and little water, mix to make a paste. Keep aside.

4. In a heavy bottom deep pan or kadhai heat mustard oil. When the oil is smoking hot, reduce heat to medium and add the fish pieces and fry till evenly golden brown from all the sides. Use a lid and take care as fish tends to splutter oil while frying. Take out the fried fishes and keep aside.

5. In the same pan (if needed add more oil), add bay leaves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom, cloves, cook for 1 min or till the spices release a nice aroma. Add the grated onion and a teaspoon full sugar, cook over medium heat till the onion takes a red-brown color. Add garlic paste, cook for 1-2 min. Add ginger paste, cook for 1-2 min.

4.  Add the previously made spice paste ( in step 3), cook for 2-3 min. Add green chili paste (if using). Add the beaten yogurt, cook till oil separates from the spices. Keep stirring after adding the yogurt. As the oil separates add hot water (1 cup), let the water boil. As the water boils add the fired fish pieces. Add salt, raisins, cover the pan and cook for 10-12 min.

5. Uncover, check seasoning and adjust accordingly. Add ghee and garam masala powder, cover and let it rest for 10 min. Serve hot with steamed rice. This curry will have a thick gravy. If you want you can add potato to this dish.

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  1. I just love the the way u insist on mustard oil and fish head which really makes the dish authentic.I have never eaten any of the fish u have written.I need to keep an open eye next time I am in store. Macher Kaliya looks soo good love the thick gravy Chitrangada!

    1. Thanks Meena. Try the Asian store near you. Carp can be used for this preparation.

  2. Visit your blog religiously but have never really left a comment before. I think I get so carried away with the food you post that all I can think of is when to make the dish and never remember to leave a comment! :P
    By the way, I have taken to using tilapia these days. I got fresh rui from the Chinese fish vendor but when I fried it, the skin turned out really hard and rubbery unlike the rui we had in India or even the frozen rui in UK.

  3. Thank you for sharing the recipe. I have never made a Bong curry yet and sure want to try this :)

  4. Chitranganda its really awesome.. when i cook this recipe at home i got so lovely comments from my hubby as he don't like to eat fish much.. Thanks very much. :)

  5. Darun hoyechilo.... Aj baniyechilam.... Jedin barite lok ashe i definitely turn to you for help... My love to you and Takai