Tuesday 10 September 2013

Maacher Jhol - Bengali Mustard Fish Curry

I just love fish curry and rice!! 
In fact, its smells and flavors stirs beautiful childhood memories of dad preparing this sumptuous dish for us. 
Those were special times indeed, when usually on a Sunday, dad would take over the kitchen, don an apron (which was an absolute must) and get about his task with us three kids hanging excitedly in the kitchen around him, watching him and feeling very important if a task was assigned to us. He would himself go to the market to pick up the fish (mom being a pure vegetarian preferred to stay away) and then cleaned it, fried it in mustard oil before adding it into a mind-blowingly delicious gravy. The taste and flavors are till date, deeply etched in my mind and I feel that no other fish curry I have tasted so far, has been able to hold a candle to my dad's delicious preparation.
Maybe one of these days, I will ask him to recreate the same magic for us (I am sure his grandchildren will enjoy that and would love to be his aides, irrespective of the fact whether he would actually want them to be around). 
Alas!! I somehow did not end up inheriting this great skill from him. Try as I might, I am totally hopeless when it comes to selecting and cooking fresh fish. I always get knotted up when it comes to picking up fish and forget all the tips that have been sounded to me over the years, by friends and family, about  picking a fish with shining eyes and pink skin, so in the end, its safely the frozen variety for me. Also, another thing that deters me from cooking fresh fish is the smell. Phew!! My entire kitchen (including me) smells fishy for the next couple of days, not to mention the innumerable complaints about the smell from my hubby and son who are not big fans of eating fish. 
A few disastrous experiments had me wisely employing a Bengali lady, Pooja, who now satisfies my craving by cooking a good, mean fish curry. Her fish curry is quite different from my dad's recipe but is delicious in its own way. It has a zesty flavor of ground mustard paste as well as the spicy kick of the hot green chilies which will immediately make you fall in love with it. 
 It's a really easy recipe with just a handful of ingredients. To make it more simple I have posted step-by-step pictures for you to follow. 
This recipe is dedicated to my dear dad for always bringing a smile to my face. 
Thanks  Pooja for sharing this wonderful recipe. I hope all you fish lovers enjoy this dish as much as I do!!

500 gms white fish fillets
1 tbsp chilli powder
4 tbsp yellow mustard seeds(soaked in water for an hour)
4 tsp khus khus seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 green chillies, split in the middle
1 cup tomato puree
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 tbsp Mustard oil 
Wash the fish fillets thoroughly and pat each piece dry with a kitchen towel.
Sprinkle the fish with turmeric powder and salt and mix well to ensure that each piece is coated well.
Keep aside for half an hour.
Heat the mustard oil in a pan till it reaches smoking point. Fry the fish lightly till it is golden brown on both the sides.
Grind the soaked mustard seeds and poppy seeds to a smooth and creamy paste.
Heat oil in a wide skillet. Add the methi seeds, green chilies and the red chilli powder to the oil.
Next add in the pureed tomatoes and saute for a couple of minutes  till the oil starts to seperate.
Add in the mustard seeds paste to the tomato puree and mix in well. Leave to simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Add about 1  cup of water, bring to a boil and put to simmer. Drop in the fish pieces and simmer for a few more minutes till the gravy thickens. 
Serve with freshly prepared plain rice.
Pooja and Kavita - my invaluable helps


  1. Wonderful Mukta....just yesterday Ulhas was searching for a fish recipe ....this is just what he will love making!!

  2. Thanks Manjari! Hope it comes out nice!