I was trying to be clever with the couple of Tilapia fish I randomly selected from the BIG aquarium at a fish store. Making fillets out of them and grilling them did not appeal me much. In the end, I settled for a Bong macher jhaal. Quite literally translated as "Bengali Fish Curry", of course made with generous amounts of green chilies.
I could have called Mum up, but it was 3 AM in India. I knew she would surely mix spices up just to teach me a lesson for freaking her out with a call for a fish recipe at that hour. So I played safe and imagined in my head certain flavours that would go with the buttery and sweet taste of tilapia and best decided to add very basic (Indian) spices from my kitchen.
I know for some of you seasoned Bong cooks, its pretty cliché to hear me use kala jeera (Nigella seeds) , turmeric, red chili powder, tomato, fresh green chilies and few sprigs of petite cilantro for a homemade fish recipe. But for me its unadulterated flavour.
I started by gently mixing some salt and turmeric powder to the washed and cleaned fish pieces. These pieces of Tilapia were then deep fried in hot mustard oil.
The jhaal or the gravy for the fish is pretty easy and quick to do. Just sauté some green chilies with kala jeera/kalonji/Nigella seeds, add roughly sliced ripe tomatoes, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt.
Let it cook till you can actually see the tomatoes getting mushy with the rest of the spices. Add to this gravy the fried Tilapia and season with some chopped cilantro.
That's Telapia Jhaal for you.
Palong Shaak’er Ghonto
While I was making a Bengali fish curry, I ached for some savoury Spinach too. This is a Palong Shaak’er Ghonto which I hated as a kid, and now just the sound of it makes me drool.
I started by adding dry red chilies and some paach phodon to the hot, little less than a tablespoon mustard oil.
Added to that some diced baby potatoes and fried them till golden brown.
Add the spinach to the potato and spices. Cover with a lid and cook for five minutes. You will see the spinach now almost wilting. That’s the sign to add the rest of the spices. I coarsely ground cumin seeds, coriander seeds and ginger in my mortar and pestle.
Add this ground spice mixture to the spinach with some turmeric powder, red chili powder and salt and sugar.
You will see all the juices coming out of the spinach and the spices. Fry the spinach till you see all the spices cooked and mixed with the potato and spinach. That’s when you add a little dollop of desi ghee.
Serve this Spinach Ghonto with hot steaming Basmati rice. Bengali cuisine couldn't have been better!