Monday, 9 December 2013

Shorshe Fish with an Asian twist

               For every Bengali worth his machher jhol and bhaat, Shorshe Bata diye Machher Jhaal has a special spot. It is cooked in every house and every house has their own way of cooking it. And even in the same house it is cooked in different ways. For instance, the tempering could change, some prefer paanch phoran or others vote for kalo jeere (kalonji) — the two produce markedly different results. Then you could make it soupy or makho makho, a drier version. Sometimes you add onions, sometimes just tomatoes, at other times both and if you desire, neither. I like a particular version with potatoes, cut in thin strips. And loads of green chillies.

            My didun (mum’s mother) is the best at making machher jhaal. And if you could ever taste it you would agree. Yeah, I know, everyone has this one person in the family, who makes a particular thing better than anyone in the world. But then I have never had a machher jhaal as good as hers and neither has anyone else in the family. It is not like she uses a secret ingredient or something, it’s just her way of doing it I guess, or she sprinkles pixie dust on it.

            Anyway, talking about Machher Jhaal, it’s a favourite at my place and it is made every single day. It is a constant on the table every night. I have experimented a few times with the Machher Jhaal just to avoid monotony; I have tempered it with curry leaves and mustard seeds, I have put in raw mangoes, and on one occasion I had put in maple syrup. But let’s not get there. Last evening, I was up for another experiment. I wanted to give the archetypal Machher Jhaal an Asian twist. Of course the idea occurred owing to the fish sauce and Kaffir Lime leaves that was still in the fridge.

        So I gave a little twist and the result made everyone very happy. The fragrant lime leaves and the pungent mustard oil, hit it off from the word go. With piping hot rice, this dish was just the thing to liven up a cold winter evening.


Bekti (cut in cubes)- 500g
Paanch phoran – ½ teaspoon
Green chillies (whole) – 2 - 3
Turmeric Powder – ½  tsp + 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Kashmiri Chili Powder – 1 tsp  
Kaffir lime leaves – 2-3 cut in thin strips
Tomatoes (chopped) – 2
Garlic (finely chopped) – 1tsp
Mustard paste -  3 -4 tbsp
Red and green chillies (chopped)
Mustard oil (as required)
Fish sauce – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste


  • First marinate the fish with salt, turmeric powder (1/2 tsp) and chilli powder for 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat oil in a kadhai and lightly fry the pieces of fish and keep aside.
  • Now, in pan heat around 2 tbsp of oil, ones the oil reaches the smoking point, add the paanch phoran and whole green chillies and reduce the flame immediately.
  • Once the aroma of the green chillies and paanch phoran fill your nostrils, add the garlic paste and the tomatoes. Also add the Kaffir lime leaves. Add a pinch of salt and cook till the tomatoes are turn mushy and finally oil separates.
  • While the tomatoes are being done, in a small bowl take the Kashmiri chilli powder and the turmeric powder, add a few table spoons of water, mix and keep. Pour it in once the tomatoes are done and oil separates and stir for a couple of minutes.
  • Now dilute the mustard paste with a little water and pour it in. Add salt.
  • Finally add the fish carefully, as also the chopped green chillies, cover and cook on low heat for a few minutes.  Round it off with fish sauce and serve piping hot with plain steamed rice.

PS. This is a tip I picked from Didun, whenever you grind mustard, add a pinch of salt and a couple of chillies to it, to avoid it getting a little too tart. In fact, sometimes mustard paste could even taste bitter.

Again in this recipe I have used Bekti, but you can use any fish you want to. 

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