I am amazed and humbled, both at the same time how one little question can bring a veritable treasure trove of family recipes tumbling down from nooks and corners of the world. I am talking about several Pabda (Butter Catfish) recipes that readers and friends of PreeOccupied shared today. All I can do is, assure you that it will take you many Pabda sojourns to be able to make all of these recipes. I am so glad I am able to share them with you today.
Mala Ray Chatterjee of Hyderabad, India, shared a simple jhol with kalo jeere (Nigella seeds), green chilies cooked in a gravy of turmeric, salt and some freshly chopped coriander. I had all the ingredients at home and so I went on to make Mala’s Pabda Maacher Jhol. The only change I did make was to add a little grated ginger to my jhol and added red chili powder too the thin gravy of turmeric and salt where the fish got dunked in.
Subharsee Basu of Bombay was confident that adding a clove of garlic to the mustard paste base would take the taste of the Pabda Maach a notch or two above the ordinary.
Purba Mitra suggested a phoron of Nigella seeds and green chilies in hot oil to start with, followed by the fish to be cooked in a sauce made of yellow mustard seeds and poppy seeds. Adding fresh coriander in the end is a necessity – both flavor-wise and aesthetically.
While Amarnath Chatterjee of Japan who calls his recipe of Pabda, Dum ki Machili typed out a detailed recipe I am copy-pasting here: Try a yogurt, green chili paste thing....sauté some cloves, one black cardamom with some caraway, add ground onion paste, brown, add ginger garlic, fry, add holud, red chili powder then add 1- 2 cups yogurt and 8-10 green chilies turned paste, cook till thickish, slip in the fish, simmer uncovered till done...
Pritha Dutta of Delhi who had once shared her Mother’s stuffed Kankrol recipe had another ace up her sleeve. She bowled us over with her Mother’s un-patented Tomato Pabda. Here is the recipe: Shallow fry the fish. For a kilo of pabda, you will need about two tablespoons of onion paste, one teaspoon each of green chili, ginger and garlic paste, two bay leaves, 3-4 cloves, 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, ghee and Bengali garam masala. Blanch the tomatoes in hot water, remove skin and grind into a paste. Heat ghee, add bay leaves and cloves, onion, green chili, ginger and garlic pastes. Once the masala starts to leave the sides, add tomato paste, salt and sugar to taste, garam masala and some water. Add the fish, cook covered for about 3-4 minutes. Gently turn the fish. Cook for another minute, remove from heat. Garnish with slit green chilies. Serve with steaming fluffy white rice.
Ronita Biswas adds that adding a little drizzle of raw mustard oil (kancha shorsher tel) to the cooked Pabda Maach curry adds a whole lot of zing to the dish. Point noted, Ronita.
Prem Chowdhury of Virginia, USA, recounted how his Dida taught him a Paturi recipe with Pabda. He adds that the recipe just has onions and red chilies and is lip smacking good. One day soon, we will have Prem write out his Grandmother’s gem. And cook it too.
Two ladies by the same name answered the Pabda calling, both painstakingly detailed out their respective recipes.
Sumana Sen-Bagchee of Edmonton, Canada, whose aunt’s bitter gourd recipe was an instant hit with the readers of my Blog has this to say: Pabda can be done very simply too--with kalo jeerey or panch phoron. Lightly fry the fish if they are frozen. Mix in a small owl halud-dhoney and lanka powder with some water. After adding phoron and kancha lanka to the oil pour in the liquid, carefully, thin it if needed, let it come to a boil, add a few pieces of chopped tomatoes, cook a while covered. Salt it, Slip in the fish when the gravy looks nicely cooked, the tomatoes married, add some grated ginger, cover and cook till fish are cooked. Sprinkle a little mustard oil, my mojo for all Bengali food, sprinkle with chopped coriander. My mom-in-laws recipe: Pabda from Pabna.
Sumana Raychaudhuri of Maryland, USA, says her favorite Pabda recipe is a simple curry made with ginger and green chili paste. Here is her recipe: pre-frying the fish is optional.
Soak two inches of fresh ginger (after peeling) and three red chilies (for 5-6 medium size fish) in water for few hours and make a coarse paste with the same water. Soak two large tomatoes in hot water and remove the peel. Now make a smooth paste with ginger-red chili-tomato. Heat oil, add kalo jeera, green chili and the ginger-red chili-tomato paste. Add salt and turmeric. Boil once, add the fish and wait till the fish gets cooked. Garnish with dhonepata.
With so many recipes shared and discussed over a period of less than a few hours, I was left confused and lusting for all of them. I chose one and got inspired by the rest of them. I shall leave you now with the pictures from my kitchen on this unique Pabda journey. I know you will get this silver-colored buttery fish the next time you are in a maacher bajaar, and cook at least one of these little gems shared by all the wonderful people.