We Bengalis love fish head. Period.
No celebratory lunch is ever complete without the pompous fish head being the piece de resistance on the table, sneaking out disdainfully from the shining kansa bowl.
Rice ceremony of kids, the last meal of a bride at her parent’s place or her first meal at her in-law’s – the fish head, full of sagacious wisdom as any Bengali would remind you, has to grace the joyous occasion.
Here I cook Maacher Matha diye Moong Dal, yellow moong dal with fish head, a quintessential Bengali classic, hearty and delicious, ideal for that time-stops-still languorous Sunday lunch with friends and family, replete with jovial laughter and innocent banter.
Maacher Matha diye Moong Dal (Yellow Lentils cooked with fish head)
- Bhekti (or rohu or katla) fish head broken to small pieces (best if you request your fishmonger to do it for you)
- 1 cup moong dal
- 2 tsps turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 big onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 - 3 whole dry red chillies
- 2 - 3 pods cardamom
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 - 2 cloves
- 2 tbsps mustard oil
- 2 tsps ghee
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Wash the fish head carefully and marinate with turmeric powder and salt. Heat oil in pan and fry the fish head pieces till golden brown.
- Dry roast the moong dal over a low flame till light golden. Take off the flame and wash in water. Place the dal now in a pressure cooker and add 11/2 cups of water. Cook on a high flame, one whistle and the dal is done.
- Heat mustard oil in a pan, when smoking hot, add the crushed cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, dry red chillies and bay leaves. Once the spices start to release their aroma, add the chopped onions and fry till light brown.
- Take a small bowl, add ginger paste, turmeric powder, cumin powder and 2-3 tablespoons of water, mix well to make a paste.
- Add the masala paste to the pan, fry along with the onions for a couple of minutes till the masala starts to release oil. Add salt and sugar to taste.
- Now add the boiled dal to the masala and mix thoroughly. Add half a cup of warm water if the consistency of dal is a wee bit too thick.
- Cover and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add a generous dollop of ghee and serve hot with rice.