Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bengali fish curry for nobo borsho

I just realized I haven't done a nobo borsho special post, and we are already 10 days past the bengali new year - celebrated on 15 April. Saturday was well-spent, and I managed to get some cooking done, as well as tick off a bunch of things from my to-do list. Summers have set in, a big project at work has just ended, travel plans are on the card, and DIY ideas are soon to be executed! It is going to be a great year! 

I have not shared a fish curry recipe in a while, so thought this is a good opportunity to set the record straight. This post, however, is not so much about a very traditional recipe, rather an excuse to wish everyone out there Shubho Nobo Borsho, or happy new year! 
This fish curry made with a poppy seed paste, or posto, is not something my grandmother would have made, rather something you might find at a restaurant in Delhi serving Bengali food. It is easy to make, and requires minimum ingredients.

For this recipe I am using pangaash,a type of medium-sized catfish, with a mild fatty flavour. It is a very soft fish, and tends to absorb the flavours of the curry very well. It is also very inexpensive, making it a perfect choice if you are cooking on a budget. I think I tasted this for the first time in Bangladesh in 2012, and it has become a favourite ever since. It is also called Shillong in Delhi (nothing to do with the place though!), and is quite similar in flavour to its more expensive cousin, the long-whiskered catfish (Sperata aor), or as we call it in bengali, aarh.

Restaurant-style posto fish curry

What you need

500 gm fish
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 tbsp poppy seed paste*
3-4 green chillies
1/2 tsp panch phoron**
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp sugar
Water, as required

How to

Marinate the fish with some salt and half of the turmeric powder for 15 minutes. Shallow fry or bake in an oven, and keep aside.

In a pan, heat mustard oil until its smoking point. Turn down heat, and then add the panch phoron to the oil. Once they begin to sputter, add the chopped onion and garlic. Add the remaining turmeric powder and some salt. Fry until golden brown. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, and cook this until the tomatoes are all mushy, and the oil starts to separate. If it gets too dry, you can always add a teaspoon of water to thin it out. This should take about 10-15 minutes. 

Add the poppy seed paste, and fry for another 10 minutes.

Add water, and turn up the heat. When the gravy begins to thicken, add the fish and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Taste for salt, and adjust if needed. Mix the sugar.

Turn of the heat, and keep the fish curry covered for at least half hour before serving. Enjoy with hot, white rice.

*Grind the poppy seeds with some water to make a fine paste. I find that the best way to do this is either using a dry grinder, and then mixing the poppy seed powder with water to make the paste. Alternately, first add the dry seeds to a grinder, and then add water. If using this method, I like to grind the seeds for a minute or two, and then let them sit for 15 mins in the grinder. This ensures a better uniform paste.

**Panch phoron is a mix of five whole spices. Use equal portions of nigella, black mustard, fenugreek, fennel, and cumin seeds. 

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