I definitely love to experiment with different cuisines, but when it comes to soul food, it is always fish curry and rice for me, that's a confession of a hardcore Bong. The list of fishes cooked in a Bengali kitchen is quite long, from exotic Hilsa to small fresh water fishes like PuNti, Mourola etc.. Yes, you may not get these fresh where I live now, but the local Asian supermarket which I consider a treasure trove, many a times helps to resolve the craving for my soul food. It has endless varieties of both fresh as well as vacuum sealed fresh water fishes. Whenever I go to the Asian supermarket, I look around the fish section. Looking for something that looks familiar, I then reach out to our ever reliable friend google to find out more about the fish and then accordingly go for it. I have not been disappointed till now.
I found this packet of small fish in the local Asian Supermarket. It was labeled 'Mud Carp' shipped from Vietnam. The fishes looked like my all time favorite puNti mach. I tried my luck and bought one packet. After cooking the fishes I was delighted. It was exactly like the puNti I know. I made some crispy fried fishes to go with steamed rice and dal and I also made a spicy dry curry.
For the crispy fry, you need to clean up the fish first. Scale the fish, cut the fins and clean the intestine (the belly part). The fishes being small, it does take a bit of time. After cleaning, wash the fishes well, smear with some salt and turmeric powder and keep aside for 30 min.
Heat oil (preferably mustard oil) in a deep pan or kadhai. When the oil is hot, fry the fishes. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry till both sides are golden brown. Serve hot with some rice and dal.
I also made a spicy dry curry with these small fishes, a favorite of mine. We call it macher jhal in Bengali. It is a dry spicy curry. Macher jhal can be made in various different ways, with mustard paste, or with onion and tomato. I went for the onion-tomato way this time. And of course I used the mud carp for this. You can use any fish, carp, tilapia, swai, anchovies, cod, perch, prawns etc.
Things need to make macher jhal or spicy dry curry with fish:
- Fried small fish: 2 cups
- Onion: 3/4 cup
- Tomato: 1 large
- Coriander powder: 1 tbsp
- Red chili powder: 1-2 tsp
- Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
- Dry red chilies: 2-3
- Green chilies: 3-4
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- Mustard oil
- Fresh coriander to garnish
Steps of making macher jhal or spicy dry curry with fish:
1. In a pan heat mustard oil, when the oil is hot add dry red chilies. Add finely chopped onions and cook till evenly brown.
2. Add tomato, sprinkle little salt, cover and cook till tomatoes are done.
3. In a bowl mix turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder with few teaspoons of water. Add the spice mix. Cook till oil separates.
4. Add the fried fish, salt, sugar, green chilies, and little water (1/4 cup). Cover and cook for 5-6 min. Uncover and reduce the gravy. Sprinkle chopped fresh coriander leaves. Serve hot with steamed rice.
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