Tel - Jhal way of cooking fish !!

Parsher Tel - Jhal

Maachher Jhol has been an incessant part of Bengali diet. Yes, we Bengalis eat fish, daily, also on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Seems like our innumerable Hindu Gods and Goddesses have cut us some slack regarding this issue. Its difficult restricting a Bengali from food. For example, you will find numerous sweet shops in every lanes and by-lanes of Kolkata and each one of them would have at least one diabetic Dadu (an elderly ), having the syrupy Roshogollas, hiding away from his daunting family.

Actually, food is a great stress reliever. Ask anyone who's on a diet and they would always complain about how life treats them unfairly. But then, people having their mouth stuffed with "Fuchkas" would explain clearly how beautifully rewarding life can be. Those innumerable Telebhaja walas, garages selling out fish chops, fish fries and kabirajis or even the street - style chowmein selling stalls would prove it to you that we, as a community know our food inside out.

In spite of all the evening chatta - mattas or the "ta"s with our evening "cha"s, a Bengali lunch would be incomplete without the necessary Maccher Jhol. My Doi Maach or Ilish Pulao are not the usual Maacher item which you cook everyday. But, this one is definitely a peek into the tenderness and warmth which goes into the daily home cooking. One such commonly cooked fish used in Bengali cuisine is Parshe ( Mullet ), a freshwater variety. Its soft and delicate flesh easily takes up the flavour of the mildly spiced curry it is cooked in. Its a smaller kind ( as compared to the bigger carps like Rohu / Catla ) and you are supposed to eat everything up, without even sparing their heads. So, this "Tel - Jhal" way of cooking fish is a popular method of making the fish soak up the awesome flavours of our gentle Indian spices (when used correctly ). You can of course substitute Parshe with any other fish of your choice but this light curry will surely take your mind away from all those life - stresses and give you a nice, long and refreshing Bhaat - Ghoom, that sweet afternoon power - nap which relaxes you off your worries.

  • Parshe - 500 grams ( cleaned and washed properly )
  • Turmeric powder  - 2 teaspoons
  • Kalo jeere / Kalonji / Nigella seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
  • Green Chillies - 3
  • Mustard oil - 2 - 3 tablespoons
  • Salt
  • Marinate the fishes with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and some salt. Smear them well and leave them for around 10 minutes.

  • Next, heat up a frying pan, add the mustard oil and wait till its smoking hot.

  • Shallow fry the fishes in batches of 2-3 and keep aside.

  • Do not discard the oil, instead we will use the same flavoured oil for the curry. Throw in the slit green chillies and the nigella seeds and wait for a minute over low flame.

  • In a bowl add the remaining turmeric powder and a hint of salt to make a thick paste and add this to the pan.

  • We need to fry the spices well. Every time it dries up throw some splashes of water, wait for the water to evaporate, repeat. Continue doing this for around 5 minutes over high flame.

  • Finally add in some warm water and adjust the consistency you want.

  • Add the fried fishes, cover the pan and wait for around 5 minutes over low flame for the fishes to soak up the juices. Check the seasonings and you are good to go.

Remember, this one will go best with some warm rice instead of rotis. So here's the compulsory part of the traditional Bengali lunch, The MAACH - BHAAT.

The quintessential Bengali Maach - Bhaat


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