Thursday, 27 March 2014

Pabda Mouri

I t is a stereotype of course, but an archetypal Bengali babu heading to the Bazaar every morning with the iconic tholey (shopping bag) in hand is an image every Bengali will reckon with. However, since childhood, until recently, I have never seen any man in my family head to the bazaar in the morning. It was Notobor da who always went to the bazaar. In fact, he was the one who decided which fish would be brought and what vegetables would be cooked on a particular day. The concept of storing vegetables or fish in the refrigerator was frowned upon in our household for the longest time and rain, storm or sun, Notobor da went to the bazaar every single day..

 Notobor da, as he was called  by everyone in my family, came from Orissa as a young lad of 17, decades ago, to work for my grandfather, at one of the his company godowns. Eventually, for some reason, his duties were altered and his responsibility shifted to household work. And for the next 30 years or so, he was an indispensable part of our family. Every one depended on him for everything. He scowled, glared, made a face but never said no to any of our requests. To my grandparents, he was their son. My father respected him like an elder brother. When dad was a kid, Notoborda had often dragged him home from the park, by the ear. In fact, it was my grandmother's strict instruction that after her, her pure shegun four poster bed, an antique at that, should be passed on to Notoborda. Notobor da cried like a child when my grand ma passed away. 

Anyway so we have always seen Notobor da going to the bazaar for us, until he retired a few years ago. His sons are doing well in life and they felt it was time their father stayed with them.So seeing my uncle and dad head to the bazaar is a recent phenomenon and quite amusing. They, especially dad, bring a whole new dimension to a chore as mundane as going to the bazaar. Talk about drama, sensationalising to the core. Dad makes this regular errand seem like the most important and challenging task there is. Mind you, he only goes to the bazaar twice a week and only to buy the fish and the meat. For lesser mortals (in this case groceries) there is Shambhu Da. Shambhu da is yet another very interesting character and deserves not just a blog pot, but a book about him alone. That, another day. 

Anyway, dad's twice-a-week bazaar visit is no mere task. Preparations are made a day in advance. The alarm is set, calls are made (you need company on these excursions), the tholey is placed where he can easily notice it, etc etc. And when he returns there is no stopping him...he goes on about how everyone in the bazaar adores him, gives him only the best, special treatment, discounted rates only for him, etc etc. But he does bring home good fish. And yesterday he brought these mammoth PABDA fish (Indian butterfish), fresh and delicious. He told Ma that "the Pabda should be on the dinner table tonight" (it was more like a polite "is it possible?" No one orders the wife) 

I being the darling that I am made sure it was on the table. So I tried out a recipe that has been lingering in my mind for a long time now. Pabda in a fennel flavoured sauce. The flavours are typically Bengali and it is distinctly different from the Pabda'r jhaal and jhol we mostly eat.



Pabda fish – 4 (large)
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp 
Chopped green chilies – 2 tbsp
Tomato puree – ½ cup
Fennel seeds roasted and ground – 21/2 tsp
Red chili powder – ¾ tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp + ½ tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste
Fresh cream – 1tbsp
Mustard oil 


Marinate the fish with salt, turmeic powder and a pinch of red chili powder and keep for about 15-20 minutes.
Heat oil in a kadhai, fry the fish until a deep golden and keep aside.
In a pan, not a deep bottomed one ideally, heat 2 tbp mustard oil. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry until it golden.
Add the tomato puree, turmeric powder, red chili powder, chopped red chilli and the ground fennel and fry the masala until oil separates.
Add one cup water and bring to boil. Add sugar. And then add the fish. Carefully ensure that the fish is well coated with thesauce.
Cook on low heat until the water soaks up and oil separates. Add the fresh cream and take off heat.

Serve with gorom gorom bhaat (piping hot steamed rice). 


  1. Such an interesting blog post. Loved the way you have depicted maacher shopping with the bag! Loved it! Keep them coming.

    1. Thanks Udipi! Glad you liked it. keep reading and encouraging!