Bengalis are quite well known for their immense love of fish, rice and long hours of sleep. It’s true, if you ever visit Kolkata, the City Of Joy, the heartland of Bengali culture, you will notice how the flavour of freshly cooked fish emits from almost every household.
Bengalis can barely live without fish. It is their staple diet. Every time a Bengali leaves their hometown to settledown anywhere else in India, or for that matter, anywhere in the world, the first thing they love to do is hunt for the fish market.
Out of all the varied fish recipes in Bengal, the ‘Macher Jhol’ is a comparatively simple, yet traditional recipe. It is easy to make and quick to digest. It is common for homes in Bengal to cook this at least once in the week.
Macher Jhol is basically a light gravy based fish preparation, strongly identified by its taste of mustard paste and green chilies. In this version of the recipe, we have tried to include flexibility, by slightly modifying the actual method, and preparation, to suit varied tastes. Furthermore, every region in Bengal makes it differently, to suit their individual palettes.
- 4 to 5 pieces of fish (usually, Katla or Rohu, a river water fish)
- Grated Onions (only if your prefer)
- Grated tomatoes (only if your prefer)
The method is simple. And there are several variations depending on the regions in Bengal. However, one of the more commonly used methods is given here:
Marinate the fish in turmeric (haldi) powder and salt for about 30 minutes.
Lightly fry the fish in a shallow bottom pan, till its golden brown. Bengalis traditionally use mustard oil in this dish, but if its too strong for you, use any other vegetable oil.
Remove the fish from the frying pan and let it settle.
In a separate vessel, fry some of the grated onion, in oil. Once the onion turns a light brown shade, add some turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt, just a tad bit of sugar, tomatoes, a teaspoon of mustard paste, and the infamous ‘Paanch Phoran’ (Bengali five spice).
Paanch Phoran is a famous Bengali spice which consists of five basic spices. You can get ready made packets from most general stores in Bengal.
Alternately, mix together these five spices of fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds in equal parts to make your own Paanch Phoran.
Fry the spices and grated onion, tomato mix together, until oil separates from the mix. Once it is done, add the fish separately, and add a little water. Add a couple of split green chillies.
Let it cook in the vessel for about three to four minutes.
And voila, your fish, rather your Macher Jhol is ready to eat. Enjoy the flavor of this dish with a plate of hot rice.