This is the story of a heady romance between fragrant rice and smashed fish head. (Smashed fish head, yes, you heard it right)
The outcome, the quintessentially Bengali Murighonto, rustic and unpretentious, yet comforting and exotic.
So this is the Bengali version of the fish-head biriyani ? I can hear you question.
No, frown the food historians, the origins of this humble dish go back far beyond the Islamic invasions that introduced us to the Biriyani. Possibly started as comfort food for sailors around the bustling eastern ports of Bengal and Orissa, local fragrant rice cooked with the leftovers of fish, the head and the tail, in a fish stock flavoured with ginger, turmeric and bay leaves.
Commerce and conquests facilitated the evolution of the dish and carried it inland – Muslim traders included onion and garlic, the royal courts of Orissa refined the dish, adding a tempering of ghee and the perfume of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon, the Europeans introduced the tomato and Wajid Ali Shah’s successors possibly inspired the potatoes.
And thus we have the murighonto in its delectable current form that we so much love and relish today, yet another of our iconic dishes shaped by heterogeneous diverse influences over centuries.
For those of you, gastronomads as me, never unwilling to let go of a dish without at the least a try, murighonto is a must to savour – try my recipe on one of those Sunday mornings when you are yearning for something novel and I am sure you shall not be disappointed !!!