|Kaanta - Chocchori|
While growing up, I would spend most of my Sunday mornings accompanying Baba to Jadu babu's bazaar ( the local market in Bhowanipore ) to stock up on the weekly ration of fresh vegetables and fishes. Its the Sunday mornings when the fish markets are the busiest with all Bangali babus ( babu - that's what the vendors call out a Bengali male) carrying a bazaarer jhola ( a bag specifically for carrying market produce ) bargaining hard for the best lot of Maach, their staple. You need to visit a fish market early morning in Kolkata, at least once in your lifetime, to understand the passion which a Bangali shares for this protein. This is a place which a typical Kolkatan will prefer even today, to get their fair share of fresh fishes instead of the frozen pre - cut pieces in the comfort of centrally air - conditioned multi - storeyed shopping malls. Amazing variants of fishes like Rohu, Catla, Koi, Kachki, Magur, Mourola, Shol, Bhetki, Bele, Tangra, Parshe, Pabda, Pomphret, Puti, Ilish..anyone will be spoilt for choices. Not just these.. we also have several shell - fishes like shrimps, crabs, lobsters, prawns like Golda chingri, Bagda chingri. Vendors would sit with huge blood - clad botis ( a long curved blade ) on the stone slabs, de-scaling, cleaning and cutting the fishes. It is amidst those wet stone floors and that stinky fishy smell, the heritage of this age - old city belong. I remember my late grandfather's eyes would sparkle every time, at the mere mention of fish - market in a sentence, even at the age of ninety - five.
The association of Bengalis and Maach is not at all over - rated. Most of the auspicious Bengali occasions like marriages are marked with the arrival of a big - fat Rohu fish which would be shared among the whole extended family. Leaving out fish in someone's diet is considered as the ultimate sacrifice which must be the main reason why widows were prohibited to have fish. Also, when someone in the family dies, the mourners are not supposed to have any non - vegetarian food while abstaining even from shaving, using soap, shampoo or some mere body oil, wear special mourning clothes. The end of the mourning period is marked by Shraddha followed by a ceremonial Matsya - mukhi ( fish eating ) which would signify the beginning of the usual eating of fishes again. So, being an invariable part of Bengali life, every festival and occasion in our lives are marked by feasting instead of day - long fasting.
Although fish - meat are relished by all, it is sometimes the spare parts like the fish - head which do not get much takers among the young members of a family. But unfortunately, thereby remains hidden all the juices and the flavours along with tit - bits of fishy meat. Therefore the cost effective Bengali mothers found various ways to increase one more item in the already multi - course meal with these crunchily - fried juicy weapons. One such delicacy is Kaanta - Chocchori ( Kaanta meaning bones and Chocchori, a mix up ) which can happily accompany some regular Daal - Chawal anyday. Some potatoes, onions along with a few humble spices can instantly convert those bony structures into a delicious relish which is difficult to stay away from. Not being a major fan of Maacher Matha ( fish head) when used in jhol ( curry ) personally, I save every Rohu / Catla / Bhetki heads to soon convert them into this Kaanta - Chocchori, one of many ways in which we can use spare parts to give that extra fishy boost to otherwise vegetarian dishes.
- One Rohu head divided into two halves
|Macher - Matha|
- Potato - 1 medium sliced
- Onion - 1 medium sliced thinly
- Brinjal (optional ) 150 grams diced into small pieces
- Green chilli - 2-3 split open
- Turmeric powder - 2 teaspoon
- Chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
- Salt according to taste
- Mustard oil - 1 tablespoon
- Smear a teaspoon of turmeric and some salt on the fish heads and let them rest for at least 10 minutes.
|Turmeric and salt smeared Heads|
- Heat the mustard oil in a kadhai. The oil should be steaming hot. Add the fish heads in the kadhai and let it fry over low flame till golden brown. Take them out.
|Fried fish - heads|
- In the same oil add in the green chillies. Saute for around a minute on low flame and add in the sliced onions. Stir them around for 2 minutes over high flame.
|Oil with chillies|
- Add in the potato and brinjal pieces, mix everything together, put the lid on and let it rest for around 5 minutes over low flame.
|Potato and Brinjal gone in|
- Open up the lid and add a teaspoon of turmeric and chilly powder along with salt. Mix up and add a splash of water to prevent the spices from burning. Cover and let rest for another 5 minutes over low flame.
- Open the lid. Its time to add the fried fish heads. Break them up with the spatula. Stir everything together and you need to wait for another few minutes till all the vegetables are cooked through.
|Fish - Heads added|
|Broken Head pieces|
- Once the potatoes have cooked and the fish heads all mixed together, you are done.
|All mixed - up|
- You can have Kaata - Chocchori with some Daal - Bhaat or even with some plain white rice. Get ready to love something unusual ( for those of you who have not yet had these bony flavours ). I promise this would turn out to be remarkable.You will never ever throw away the fish heads next time you bring home some fresh fishes.