Bengalis Default Fish Curry
Bengalis and fish are almost synonyms. In Bengal we cook different types of fishes and every fish has its signature dish associated with. But what is different from other places is, the Bengali Fish curries are generally mild, it does not overpower the taste of the fish rather compliments or enhance the taste in a very subtle way. Today the recipe I will share is a modification of a very bare bone skeleton of the most common fish curry, which can be fish agnostic. That is why I call it Bengalis Default Fish Curry. Any fish can be cooked in this sauce and will taste good.
Like me most of the Bengalis grew up having fish at least twice a day for the two main meals lunch and dinner. I do not remember liking or not liking fish as that was never a question or choice. It was part of our life. I have seen my dad going to the market every day seven days a week to get fresh fishes and vegetables in the morning. That was part of his daily rituals. As a result, we will have every day different fishes, and sometimes multiple types in a single day as well. If you go to any fish market in Bengal you will get to see various kinds of fishes.
There are various categories like some are freshwater fishes, some saltwater fishes. Freshwater fishes are more common in Bengal, because of the abundance of rivers, lakes, and ponds. Then we have small fishes like Mourola(Indian Carplet), Punti (Anchovy, Barb), Smelt, Kechki(Yellowtail Mullet) medium-sized fishes like Pabda(Butterfish), Perch, Koi (Climbing perch), Bata(Mullet), Tyangra, Parshe(Flathead grey mullet), some are larger fishes like Hilsa, Rohu, Grass Carp, Mrigal(White Carp), Bhetki (Barramundi, Sea Bass), Catfish, Tilapia, Boyal(Wallago). The big fishes can be bigger, by age and weight, also whether it has eggs or not.
The interesting part is all these variations dictate their preparations. We have different types of preparations namely “Jhol” which is like Soup, mild in taste, and generally have vegetables in it. Again here most of the fishes have their paired vegetables, they are not usually random. Like for example Bhetki will pair well with Cauliflower but Hilsa pairs well with Eggplant and so on. Then we have “Jhal” which is a sauce based on mustard paste in most cases, along with onion and tomatoes. “Bhapa” which is generally baked with mustard sauce and coconut, “Paturi” which is a form of Grilled fish wrapped in some flavored leaves, “Kaliya” which is a rich curry made of onion-tomato-ginger-garlic paste and other spices, and many more.
The recipe I will share today is a very basic default sauce that can be made with any fish. It is easy to make and often comes handy. Later I will share each of the mentioned categories of sauces but let’s start with the default one. You can use any white fishes, here I have used Trout. We can make it either with fish steaks or fillets. To keep the fish pieces shape and nice yellow color, I like to coat them with turmeric and salt, and lightly brown on high heat, before adding them into the sauce. Because the fishes were not exactly fresh, I added a little onion and garlic.
10 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
25 minTotal Time
- 2 lb Fish fillets or Steaks (cleaned and cut)
- 2 tbsp Mustard Oil
- 1/4 tsp Nigella Seeds (Kalo Jeera)
- 1-2 Green Chilies (slitted in the middle)
- 1/3 Cup Onion
- 1/4 Cup Tomato
- 2-3 Garlic cloves
- 1/2 inch Ginger
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Cumin Powder
- 1/4 tsp Red Chilli Powder
- 1 tsp Salt (as per taste)
- 1 1/2 Cup Water
- Blend or fine chop onion, garlic, and ginger in a blender or food processor.
- Warm 2 tbsp of water and add turmeric, cumin powder, red chili powder and let it soak.
- In a pan add mustard oil
- Cover the fish pieces with turmeric and salt.
- Once the oil is hot, slightly brown the fishes and dish out.
- Add another tbsp of oil in the same pan, add Nigella seeds, and green chillies.
- Wait for the splattering
- Add the onion paste and fry.
- When the paste turns slightly brown, add the soaked paste.
- Fry for couple of minutes, and add chopped tomatoes.
- Fry till the oil separates.
- Add water and let it boil.
- Adjust salt.
- Slowly add the fish pieces, lower the heat and cover.
- Let me cook in low heat for 7-8 minutes.
- Dish out and enjoy with steamed rice!