Macher Jhol (Bengali fish curry)
In Bengal, the fish used for this recipe would be Rohu, a local carp, which requires some skill to debone. In a large family gathering, it makes sense to use fish that has been filleted to make things easier for both you and your guests. If you can source a good mustard oil, it gives this dish a wonderful flavour.
Serves 6 as a main course or 12 as part of a multi-course meal
1.5 kg/3 lb 5 oz skinless, boneless fish fillets, such as cod or halibut
3 tsp salt
1½ tsp ground turmeric
6 tbsp vegetable oil or mustard oil
1 large white onion, finely grated
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 piece ginger, 2.5 cm/1 inch long, crushed to a paste
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tbsp tomato purée (tomato paste)
200 g/7 oz tomatoes, cut into 2.5-cm/1-inch cubes
600 ml/1 pint/2½ cup warm water
½ tsp sugar
A few sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
Cut the fish fillets into 12 equal portions. Mix 1 tsp of the salt and 1 tsp of the ground turmeric, then rub on all sides of the fish and set aside for 30 minutes.
In a shallow saucepan, heat 5 tbsp of the oil over a medium–high heat.
If you are using mustard oil, heat the oil until it is smoking hot – this removes the bitter pungency of the oil – then bring it down to a medium–high heat. Add the fish to the pan and fry to seal each piece, but do not let the fillets cook through. Remove from the pan to a plate and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes over a medium–high heat. If the paste is burning or sticking to the base of the pan, add a splash of water. Add the remaining salt and ground turmeric, followed by the ground coriander, ground cumin, chilli powder, tomato puree and diced tomatoes. Pour in 600 ml/1 pint/
2½ cups warm water and cook for 5 minutes. Keeping the pan on a medium–high heat, let the liquid reduce for 15 minutes or until the oil comes to the surface and seeps to the sides of the pan.
Gently return the fish fillets to the pan and cover with the gravy, ensuring all sides of each fillet are cooking evenly. If possible, cook the fish fillets in a single layer in the pan as this will prevent them from breaking up into flakes. Lower the heat, add the sugar and cook, covered, until the fillets are cook through – this should take no longer than 5 minutes.
To serve, garnish the fish with whole green chillis and sprigs of fresh coriander leaves.
The featured recipe is from Asma’s Indian Kitchen by Asma Khan