If jhals, jhols and dalnas, indigenous to Bengal, are soulful, humble and unpretentious, kalias and kormas are the other end of the spectrum – sinful, decadent and pompous.
Born in the august kitchens of Avadh, imported into Bengali cuisine as an aftermath of the Mughal conquest of Bengal and perfected under the enlightened auspices of the Nawabs of Murshidabad, kalia remains to this day an epicurean delight for us food-loving Bengalis, a staple for any of our celebratory feasts.
Sadly, the kalia has long been eclipsed by the ostentatious Korma in the land of its origin. But in the farflung river-blessed alluvial plains of Bengal, a Bhetki Kalia alongside a bowl of piping hot rice still lights up a blissful smile on the face at the end of a hectic day.
Bhetki Maacher Kalia
- 8 - 10 pcs bhetki cubes (you can use bhetki steaks as well)
- 1 big tomato pureed
- 2 tbsps onion paste
- 10 - 12 cashew nuts
- 10-12 raisins soaked in water and drained
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 2 - 3 bay leaves
- 1 - 2 green cardamom
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 - 2 cloves
- 2.5 tbps mustard oil
- 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
- sugar to taste
- salt to taste
- Marinate the bhetki cubes with little turmeric powder and salt.
- Soak the cashew nuts in warm water for 10 odd minutes. Make a smooth paste using an electric blender, keep aside.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in frying pan, shallow fry the bhetki cubes, keep aside.
- Add the remaining oil in a pan, throw in the bay leaves and crushed cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. When the spices starts releasing their aroma, sprinkle in the sugar and then add in the onion paste. (The sugar shall caramelise and this is whats gives the kaalia such a rich colour).
- Saute the onion paste for 5-6 minutes, till it starts taking a tinge of brown. Now add the ginger paste, saute for a couple of minutes. Time to add the tomato paste and cook over a medium flame, stirring occasionally, till the onion-ginger-tomato masala is cooked and you no longer get the smell of raw tomatoes.
- Make a thick paste of cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and and turmeric powder in a little water. Add this spice paste to the masala and cook till oil starts to separate from the masala.
- Add the cashew nut paste and saute for a further 4-5 minutes.
- Add 1/2 cup of warm water, salt, sugar, raisins, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the fried fish cubes, adjust seasonings and simmer for just a couple of more minutes.
- Finish with a generous dollop of ghee and a hearty sprinkle of garam masala powder. Serve hot.