When in doubt, cook fish ! On days when I get super confused about dinner ideas, I reach out for a packet of fish from the freezer.No, I am not talking of the rainbow trouts, the salmons or the groupers, but the Desi(Indian) varieties. I had been taking the easier route for the last few days, and so today, I thought, why not, cook up some Fishy Goodness.This time around, I had boycotted the bigger fishes, and loaded up on my supply of chhoto maachh per se. So Ilish(Hilsa), Rui-Katla(Rohu) and Boyal took a backseat while the shopping bags were filled with Pabda, Parshe, Tengra and not to forget, Bata. Chhoto Maachher Jhaal has a different appeal to the tastebuds. To think there was a time, when I used to not like the idea, of picking out the fish, from the bones, during my childhood days. And as I grew up, my love story, with chhoto maachh just got stronger. When I first moved to Delhi, my mom was shocked that I was cooking chhoto maachh for my super lazy room mate and myself. Every second week or so, during my weekly offs,I made it a point to visit the fish market at the Bong locality, Chittaranjan Park.I remember, when my parents were visiting me once, they were amazed to see the stock of fish in the freezer. Mom's query was, "When did I learn to buy Fish?" Well, when you lust for something, then survival tactics teach you how to get it. So which fish monger in C. R Park, specialised in which type of fishes, was totally up my alley, by then.

While my mom usually makes Bata Maachher Jhaal with onions and tomatoes, I decided to skip that, and opt for a spicy Shorshe Bata Jhaal(mustard paste).Well, Bata Maachh is not one of hubby's super favorite fishes, but Shorshe Bata diye Maachher Jhaal floors the man every time. So decided to do a li'l bit of healthy cheating in this regard.The tomato -onion gravy can wait for the Tengra, whose turn is next on this week's menu.Hopefully the man, won't mind it much.The best part of the deal, was that the fish was already prepped. Usually the problem with the smaller variety of desi fishes is that, one has to thaw them, and then clean them up thoroughly. From the guts to the dorsal and pelvic fins, everything needs to be prepped well. Or else, we would land up with bitter fishes at the table, if the guts are not cleared.Often its the prep work, which deters me, but today was, I guess, my day. I just had to grind a fresh batch of shorshe bata(mustard paste), and roll on. Speaking of shorshe bata,I often hear from many friends and readers, that their mustard paste turns out bitter. Well, my two cents to this issue, has not failed me in the last few years. I soak black mustard seeds in some luke warm water for a few hours. Then along with the water, I add a few green chillies and a pinch of salt to the mustard seeds and wet grind it, in the blender. I usually make a slightly larger batch of shorshe bata, as it can be frozen in the freezer, in an airtight container for almost a month.Its the green chilies and the pinch of salt which prevent it from getting bitter. Moreover I make sure that I do not over grind it. While grinding it, I keep checking the texture of the paste intermittently. The point at which I cannot feel the coarseness of the husks, I stop right there. As often if mustard is over ground, it also tends to get bitter. Since I am not too much of a fan of using mustard powder for Bong gravies, I try and stick to this routine.


Bata Maachh: 6-8 prepped and cleaned.
Mustard Paste: 2 tbsp
Potato: 2 large, cut into longish pieces
Nigella Seeds/Kalo Jeere/Kalonji: A pinch
Green Chili: 6-8 (Adjust according to heat preferences)
Mustard Oil: 5-6 tbsp
Red Chili Powder: 1 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Salt: To taste
Turmeric Powder: 2 tsp

Pat dry the fish with some paper towels to remove moisture and marinate them in some turmeric powder and salt. Keep aside.

Heat mustard oil in a non stick frying pan. Add the fishes one by one to the oil, just before it starts to smoke. If the oil is not sufficiently hot, then the skin of the fish will peel off. Be careful while doing this, as fishes tend to spurt oil. Don't crowd the pan, and fry then fishes in two batches if necessary. Fry on High, for around 2-3 minutes per side. As we use frozen fishes here, I tend to fry them a bit longer. If you are using fresh fish, then do not fry them for long. Remove the fried fishes from oil and keep aside.

Reduce the temperature of the oil, and add the longish cut potatoes. Fry on medium heat for around 3 minutes or so, till the potatoes start to caramelise around the edges. Remove from oil and keep aside.

Meanwhile make a mixture of mustard paste, red chili powder, turmeric, salt and sugar with a cup of hot water. 

Temper the oil( in which you fried the fishes and potatoes) with a pinch of nigella seeds and a few longitudinally slit green chilies.

As the nigella

Well, I had added a bit too much water, while making the mix, so had to reduce it for a few extra minutes.
 The gravy is on the drier side, and should be thick in consistency. Do a quick taste test. Garnish with a few more green chilies, cut longitudinally.

I am gonna serve it some steamed Basmati rice and some Mushur Daal.

Bon Appetit !

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