It’s not everyday that my fishmonger calls to inform that he’s got some gorgeous boal maach. And that he has taken the liberty of sending some boal steaks home.
Lucky me !!! I am elated.
Boal was available in abundance in Assam.
And many a fond memory I nurture of Manikkaka returning home on mellow winter-turning-to-spring mornings from the local maacher baajaar (fish-market), plump steaks of boal, caught overnight, in his ancient well-past-its-prime blue and green striped nylon bag (exclusively reserved for fish and Grandma’s alert eyes never missing a careless-for-a-moment Manikkaka fishing out an odd vegetable from the bag) and Maa cooking a sublime boal maacher jhal.
What do I prepare ? I wonder though this morning.
And before I even realize, the couch is a confusion of cookbooks, newspaper clips and diaries replete with scribbles.
The quintessential Bengali boal maacher jhal ?
A more ambitious boal biryani ?
Nothing seems though to satiate my attention.
Or am I just being fussy ?
Finally a call to Maa.
What’s that dish you had cooked when Bapi’s cousins had come home for lunch ?
You expect me to remember what I cooked decades back, Maa protests in mock agony.
But that taste still lingers on my taste-buds. I complaint.
Finally Maa takes over.
Try a boal maacher dom.
How do I go about it ?
It’s so simple. And she rattles off. A little this and a little that. And you are done.
Slow down Maa, I interject. Scribbling as furiously as I can with a phone balanced precariously between my ear and my shoulder.
How much is a little ? A teaspoon ? I enquire.
Just a little, she responds.
Mothers never measure quantities, I should know better.
Finally armed with the recipe, I return to the kitchen.
And what a divine boal maacher dom it turns out to be !!!
Boal maacher dom. Gorgeous boal steaks. A generous slather of onion and ginger paste. Maa’s secret masala. Some wicked chillies and a glug of mustard oil.
This is what I call food heaven !!!