We Bongs pretty much eat every part of the fish, including its head!
The head of a fish (like Rohu and other fatty big fish) increases your vision and memory. Some heart associations wholeheartedly agree that the Omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil can control and reduce cardiovascular diseases or even diabetes. But you probably know all this already.
But did you know why Pui Shaak or Pohi Saag or Malabar Spinach qualifies as a “non-vegetarian green” in traditional Bengali homes? In olden times, widows had to voluntarily denounce many things immediately after the death of their husbands – including fish and meat. A custom I simply abhor but thankfully it is fading out now. Pui Shaak for whatever reason was also listed for the Bengali widows to give up. I am still looking for a logical (sic!) reason if at all, why?! If you do happen to know the answer, please share it here.
Our trip to the Bangladeshi store in Danforth is mostly marked by the Ilish Maach we get, a Pôdda import. Which invariably is either fried or made into Ilish Maacher Paturi. But today I made a very traditional mish-mash of Pui Shaak and vegetables with the Ilish head (with a couple of small pieces of fish thrown in).
Ingredients for Pui Shaaker Chorchori with Ilish Maach (Pui Greens Medley with Hilsa Head) are:
1 head of Hilsa fish, halved and cleaned
400 grams pui green/Malabar Spinach, coarsely chopped and washed thoroughly
1 radish, the size of your arm, skin removed and cut into cubes
250 grams pumpkin, diced
2 medium size potatoes, skin removed and cubed
2 Chinese eggplant (the long thin ones) cut in cubes
Few green chilies broken from the middle
2 teaspoons panch phoron
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds ground in a smooth paste (I also throw in a couple of green chilies)
2 teaspoons red chili powder
2 + half teaspoons turmeric powder
Rub turmeric and a little salt to to the fish head. Heat mustard oil in a wok. Fry the fish in it cooking it for 1-2 minutes on each side. Keep aside.
In the same oil, add the panch phoron and the green chilies. Sauté for a couple of minutes, till the spices get fragrant.
I start by adding the hardy vegetables first into the oil just so that everything cooks evenly.
So the order I follow is potatoes first, followed by pumpkin, radish, and eggplant.
Keep sautéing the vegetables on medium-high flame.
After about five minutes of cooking the vegetables, add the fried fish pieces/head, mustard paste, turmeric powder, red chili powder, a tablespoon of sugar and salt to taste. Mix well till all the vegetables get coated with the spices. I also use my spatula to break the pieces of fish in the vegetables. Now throw in the greens and mix well. At this point, its okay to cover and cook. So that moisture builds in the wok and the greens start wilting.
I add a little water, maybe quarter cup to crank up the cooking process of the vegetables.
Check the seasoning of salt and sugar and balance it accordingly. The vegetables would have cooked by now but not too mushy.
This chorchori is eaten with plain rice. I served it with fried Ilish maach, its tel and deem, sprinkled with some salt and a big fat green chili.