Its often joked that the Bengali gastronome travels the world, but returns home to savour his maacher jhol and bhaat.
Its difficult, if not impossible, to explain the stature of maacher jhol in Bengali cuisine. Its by far the undisputed leader of the classes and masses. Cooked with the same pride and gusto from the busy humble roadside stall in Dalhousie, Kolkata to the glam Michelin star kitchens of upmarket restaurants the world over. It is synonymous with the Bengali identity. An embodiment of their undying love for food, especially their fish. Simple and earthy, yet so comforting.
There are a myriad ways to stir up a maacher patla jhol. And every mother and grandmother has her secret tip. Yet the fundamentals remain the same. Fried fish simmered in a tomato-ginger gravy. Flavoured with cumin. Maybe a dash of ground coriander. Topped with fresh coriander. And a generous squeeze of lemon.
Here’s my recipe for Maacher Patla Jhol. Specially for my dear friend Suranjana who, elated at the sight of rohu at a local fishmonger in Seoul, requested me for the recipe.
Happy cooking Suranjana and take care.
Maacher Patla Jhol (Cumin Flavoured Fish Curry)
- 4-5 pieces rohu or katla fish
- 2 potatoes cut into long batons
- 5 potol or parwal or pointed gourds (optional), peeled and halved longitudinally
- 1 tomato pureed
- 2 tsp ginger paste
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 4 tsp cumin seeds soaked in a little water and blended to a semi-smooth paste with a couple of green chillies
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 2 - 3 green chillies slit
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- salt to taste
- Marinate the fish with turmeric and salt. Heat mustard oil in frying pan and fry the fish till light brown on both sides. Keep the fish aside.
- Marinate potatoes and pointed gourds with turmeric and salt and fry in the same oil till golden brown and tender. Keep aside.
- Reheat the same oil, temper it with whole cumin seeds and green chillies. Add the tomato puree, ginger paste, turmeric powder, 2 tsp of the cumin paste, sugar (just a tiny pinch 🙂 ) and salt.
- Cook slowly on a moderate flame till oil starts releasing from the masala paste.
- Add the fried potatoes and pointed gourds (if at all using) and about 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Give a nice loving stir and bring the curry to a gentle simmer.
- Adjust the salt, add the fried fish and cook for a further 5-6 minutes till the gravy thickens slightly.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.