The importance of fish to Bongs runs deep in their blood. And even people refer bongs as maache bhaate bangali. Sounds interesting right? but fishes to is bangali are just like beer to Germans or apples to Americans. A staple to every Bangali household, a meals without fish in it is no meal.
Both my paternal and maternal grandparents hailed from Bangladesh and fled to India during partition. Whenever they used to reminisce about their sweetest memories of childhood, they often used to talk about the various fishes which were caught fresh from the river, specially padmar ilish. So here is a list of fish dishes that you must try out when you are in Kolkata. Although I must warn you, many of these dishes are not available in fancy restaurants, and some these are high on spice! (in a good way).
1. Tel koi – rich, spicy and comforting, this heartwarming winter delicacy is one of my ¬dida’s specialty. Although koi is available through out the year, winter is the best time to enjoy this dish with steamed rice because it very hot (no jokes). A very interesting fact about this dish which my dida often used tell my ma is that tel koi does not get its name from loads of mustard oil in the dish. The name comes from the fact that when koi maach is fresh enough, it secretes oil by itself which gives the unique taste to the fish. I actually have seen people prepare this dish with onion and garlic, but the recipe closest to my heart remains the one cooked with ginger and cumin paste and of course mustard oil.
2. Ilish beguner jhol – probably the simplest way to cook the delicate hilsa fish after ilish mach bhaja is ilish beguner jhol aka hilsa and eggplant curry. A light curry cooked with brinjal wedges and hilsa fish is a treat to your taste buds if you are tired of the same old ilish bhaapa (its good though). The limited amount of spices used, makes the delicate flavors of fish shine.
3. Aam shol aka shol macher tok – a comforting light curry cooked during the summer with snakehead murrel fish and green mangoes, this dish formed a daily part of my childhood summer lunches. I must argue on the fact that my ma cooks this dish better than my dida ( which doesn’t happen quite often).
4. Lau patay ilish bhapa – paturi is a bengali delicacy where the fish is cooked with a paste of mustard, coconut and poppy sees along with mustard oil and green chili, all wrapped up in a leaf ( edible such an banana leaf or bottle gourd leaf) and served with hot rice.
5. Shorshe bata diye parshe maccher jhal – this thick curry is prepared with fresh mulled fish along with a paste of mustard seeds, mustard oil, nigella seeds, chilies and tomatoes. Try making this dish with dim bhora parshe aka mullet fish filled with roe.
6. Maacher kalia ¬– I must warn you, this one dish is surely not humble, period! The richness of this maacher kalia speaks for itself and its definitely not for the light hearted, it is a rich gravy based dish cooked with big fish chunks along with potato chunks in an aromatic and silky gravy.
7. Ilish maccher matha diye badhakopi – I believe it takes a lot of finesse to cook with the almost discarded parts of fish and make a delicacy out of it. This strongly flavoured dish is cooked with hilsa head, cabbage, potatoes and peans and slowcooked.
8. Daab chingri – well most of you had chingri maacher malakari right? now daab chingri is a traditional Bengali delicacy cooked with jumbo prawns along with coconut flesh. This mildly sweet dish, though takes a lot of time to prepare, surely does taste like heave.
These are some of the not so famous, but must try fish dishes in Kolkata. However you can surely never miss upon chingri maacher malaikari, shorshe ilish, shorshe ilish, macher muro diye mug dal etc.