I have a special affinity to Bengali cuisine, according to me it is the best cuisine in the world and I never have enough of it, which is strange because I am a Punjabi raised in Ulhasnagar and married to a Maharashtrian now settled in Australia. And I have eaten and tasted a lot of different cuisines from around the world but there is something about Bengali food that draws me towards it.
The smell of “Panch Phoran” the quintessential Bengali spice being tempered in hot Mustard oil is almost heady, making me go weak in my knees. I remember standing outside my Bengali neighbor’s window whenever I passed by and just inhaling the aromas of all the amazing food being cooked in the kitchen almost feeling dizzy with all the smells.
I love the food, the culture and the fact that Bengali’s love to read. I know some really creative people from that part of the country who are passionate about their heritage and their culture. And it makes me long to have the same affinity towards mine, which is something I sadly lack. So my idea of making up for the lack of any culture in my life is to make Bengali food as much as I can and obviously read lots of books.
I actively search for food blogs written by Bengali authors and one of my favorite blog is written by Sandeepa from “Bong Mom’s Cookbook“. Her blog is full of deliciously mouthwatering Bengali recipes and lots of lovely stories about her life. While I have tried several of her recipes, the one that I love the most is the very easy Tomato Diye Macher Potla Jhol which basically means “Fish cooked in a very watery Tomato gravy”.
This Jhol or Gravy is delicious with plain boiled rice and everytime I dig my fingers in the hot rice and eat a mouthful of this Jhol I feel happiness that I cannot describe. It is one of my go to comfort foods and if I had my way I would almost eat it everyday. But unfortunately fish is really expensive here in Perth so I just make it when I am feeling down and I just want to lift my spirits up.
You can go and check the recipe by going to Sandeepa’s blog or read it below. I have tweaked the quantities and the type of Fish as per the availability here in Perth.
Recipe (serves 2, cooking time 30 minutes)
4 medium pieces of Mackerel/Sea Bass/Trout (No Salmon or Mahi Mahi. Bengali’s usually use Sweet water fish)
2 medium sized Tomatoes finally chopped
Salt to taste
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Kalonji seeds
3 – 4 Green chillies slit
1 tbsp freshly grated Ginger (Do not use Bottled Ginger as it will alter the taste)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp freshly chopped Green Coriander
1 tbsp Mustard Oil to fry the fish (you may need a little extra)
1) Clean and wash the fish. Pat it dry and sprinkle some Salt and Turmeric on both sides and leave it to marinate for 10 – 15 minutes. Don’t be tempted to leave the fish for longer than this.
2) After 15 minutes heat the Mustard oil in a deep bottomed Pan. As we are using Mustard Oil it has to be really hot before you put the fish pieces in it to fry. Shallow fry the fish until it is crispy and lightly Brown on both the sides.
3) Remove the fish pieces and drain on a paper towel for it soak any excess Oil.
4) In the same pan add the Kalonji, Green chillies and Ginger and saute. Now add the chopped Tomatoes. You can use 1 cup of Tomato Puree instead of Fresh ones but I feel the dish tastes completely different when using fresh ingredients.
5) Once the tomatoes have become all mushy and pulpy add a pinch of Turmeric powder and Salt.
6) Add 1 or 2 cups of hot water depending on how watery you want it. Bring it to the boil and reduce the heat and add the Fish pieces.
7) Add the chopped Coriander leaves and cook for 7 – 10 minutes with the lid on a slow flame.
Serve hot with boiled rice and enjoy happiness on your plate.