I am a regular corporate guy with a downward gaze that stops at the belly, because I can look no further, a pack that my life-long indulgence with all things yummy gifted me. A self-confessed bongophilic ~ my take on those who swear by Bengalee food, ghoti-bangal styles included, I keep scouting for recipes around the world and converting them to bong dishes, my way. So I would like my readers to exercise caution before experimenting with my exploits, but promise, that once you’ve dished out two or three meals by this blog, you’ll love coming back for more. I know you’re here because we share this common love. I cook simply because I love to and that’s that. My blog is aimed at YOU, an avid food-lover and bong, non-bong, no matter what; you’re invited to have a sniff at my Henshel – The “quintessentially” Bong Kitchen…
Tilapia with Potato Fondant and Fennel
My first recipe had to be a FISH item. All I can say is that, you can take a Bengali away from fish, but can never take the fish away from him. To most Bengalees, maach (fish, also jol-torkari or fruit of the ocean) is vegetarian but peyaj-rosun (onion-garlic) is not, because they were brought in by some unsuspecting jawbone (foreigners, in some periods the invading Moslems and in others, Portuguese cultivators). I decided to invert the tables and cook niramish maach (vegetarian fish).
Marinade ~ by far, THE simplest; all you would need is turmeric powder and coarse salt for rubbing the raw fish and keeping it aside for a minute or two. I love this step of caressing the soft flesh of fish with my hands smothered in salt and turmeric and feeling as if I were running naughty fingers through my wife’s “parlour-maintained” skin. This restrained rub of salt and turmeric imparts a definite bong flavour to any fish dish.
Tilapia fillets or if you don’t mind them, whole Tilapia fish ~ use two medium sized ones or four large fillets. Please give this humble fish its due reverence and do not replace with rohu or catfish
Oil ~ to fry these I prefer mustard oil, as you would find in most Bengalee kitchens. Mustard oil gives an eerie zing to bland fish and helps reduce the quantity of spice you would have to use, otherwise
Shallots diced into big pieces, Garlic Pods coarsely pound
Onion Paste ~ another secret to a proper maacher jhol (fish gravy)
Tomato Puree ~ don’t bother yourself peeling boiled tomatoes and blending them into a puree, go ahead with the readymade ones
Potatoes ~ prefer using the chandramookhee aloo variety, unfortunately I do not know what they are called in the Queen’s language. For Bengalees, each dish requires a different style of slicing potatoes, an art form perfected by the expertise of several maa-boumaas (mothers and wives) over ages. For mine, just cut the potatoes into boat shaped wedges.
Orange juice ~ here again I am too lazy to deseed orange pips and extract the juice off them, I use canned juices, and you can use them too
Fennel leaves ~ mouri-pata, one of my favourites, leaves a lovely aroma and a lingering after-taste
Green chilies ~ whole and slit in the middle; this simple bong trick does not let the heat of the chilies ooze out, but you still get the flavour
Freshly ground black pepper ~ a signature borrowed from my mom-in-law. She’s one towering personality in the family, mostly because of the finger-licking-good Hilsa-biryani she cooks, but that’s story for another day
Butter ~ a generous dollop, Bengalees have a huge colonial hang-over, don’t we?
As for the proportions of each ingredient, no, it’s not a trade secret, I’d like you to evolve your own style and enjoy the process of self-discovery. In case you don’t muster courage, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of my cooking base is a closed-lid 12″-wide 3″-deep thick-bottomed non-stick kawdha (wok). It helps me not only reduce the amount of oil I need for tossing fish or vegetables but also in several associated techniques of steaming, smoking and tempering.
Excuse me, for I swagger a lot. Now, let us get down to the real bit, cooking … 🙂
Heat oil in the wok until fumes appear. Throw in the slit chilies. Dump in the marinated fish gently, taking care to not let the hot oil bruise yourself. Place the potato wedges and diced shallots in the gaps formed by the fish, and make sure they are properly dunked in oil. Drizzle the broken garlic pods over the fish and squeeze in the onion paste on top. Tear off a bunch of fennel leaves and sprinkle all across. Reduce flame and cover with the lid. Let the fish simmer for five to ten minutes. You would notice the colour changing from pale grey to golden brown. Turn the fillets upside down and cook for another minute or two. Now add tomato puree, orange juice and if required, some warm water (my wife says this brings up the taste quotient). Bring to a boil. At this stage, mash the diced shallots a wee little bit, they would have softened by now. Prick the potatoes with the back of a ladle to test if they are done. Check for seasoning and add salt if you will. Pour in the blob of butter, garnish with coarsely ground pepper. Lo, and behold, you’re done!
Simple wasn’t it? I always maintain that the best recipes are the ones easiest to execute.
And since a picture speaks a thousand words, here’s proof of the pudding:
Do EAT and let me know. See you in a week.
P.S. I added a sprig of corriander leaves for the dash of green: contrasts brilliantly with the red colour of the gravy