That the colonialists left an indelible impression on the canvass of Calcutta, for long, the second capital of the Empire, an empire on which the Sun never set, is an understatement at the best.
Stately edifices in a potpourri of architectural styles.
Stunning cathedrals. Inspired by the ones at home.
Lord Curzon’s faux Taj Mahal with the fairy at its pinnacle. Complete with even its very own Serpentine.
The exclusive clubs. And their humming watering holes.
The elaborate afternoon tea rituals.
Park Street and Hogg Market.
Bustling auction houses.
The bridge across the river.
The now-decrepit warehouses along the Strand.
The frenzied passion for football and yes, an undying love for cricket.
I in no way claim to be an expert on colonial history, and my random musings here just scrape the surface; I am sure, erudite historians have compiled voluminous anthologies on how deep-rooted the influence of the British was and still is on the very soul of the city.
And did i just hear you mention food ?
Yes, food !!! How did I ever forget food ?
Soups and stews.
Chops and cutlets.
Pastries and puddings.
But nothing more endearing to the Bengali than the fish fry.
Our indigenous Bhetki. Marinated in onion-ginger-garlic juices. Green chillies if you like the heat. Coriander and mint leaves if you like the perfume. Dipped in an egg wash. Coated with breadcrumbs. And fried to a sinful gorgeous golden.
Yes, the fish-and-chips inspired fish fry remains to this day soul food for the gastronome Bengali.
Fish fry, Bengali style
- 6 sea bass or bhetki fillets (approximately 3"x 2" size), washed and pat dried
- 1 small onion
- 1.5 inch ginger roughly chopped
- 5-6 cloves garlic smashed
- 2-3 tsp green chilli roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves roughly chopped
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp black pepper powder freshly ground
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup plain flour for coating
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp black pepper powder freshly ground
- 1/2 tsp salt
- breadcrumbs for coating
- oil for frying
- Marinate the bhetki fillets with lemon juice, black pepper and salt, keep aside for 15 minutes or so.
- Blitz the onion, garlic, ginger, green chilies and coriander leaves to a fine paste.
- Smear the paste evenly on the fish fillets,. Keep aside for at least 3-4 hours, even better overnight.
- Take flour in a flat dish. Roll the marinated fillets lightly on the flour and dust the excess gently. Keep aside.
- Spread the bread crumbs on a flat plate (lets call it A). And the other half on another flat plate (lets call it B).
- Add little salt and black pepper powder on the plate B. Give it a hearty mix.
- Break the eggs in a big bowl, add a generous pinch of salt and pepper, whip well. Keep aside for 10-15minutes.
- Take a bhetki fillet, dip in the whipped egg wash and now roll lightly in the breadcrumbs on Plate A. Take it out, shake off the extra breadcrumbs.
- Again dip in the whipped egg wash and coat it with the breadcrumbs on Plate B. Press the crumbed fillet gently to ensure it is coated evenly on all sides. Press ligthly from all the side to straighten. Shake off any extra crumbs.
- Repeat for the rest of the fillets.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, fry one by one till golden. Keep aside on a kitchen towel.
- Serve hot with kasundi.