Salam Bombay: A Karmakar original

I thought I must write about this fish dish which I created today. Especially after the post I just wrote on my Bengali roots.

I call this post Salaam Bombay because it the it is on dish which is inspired by the cooking ethos of Bombay and the Western coasts.

It uses ingredients such as sea water fish, vinegar, whole mustard seeds, black pepper powder, curry leaves, coconut milk and garlic. Ingredients which are sparingly, if not rarely, used in Bengali fish curries.

Here's how I made this very simple curry.

I heated a teaspoon of vegetable oil in a pan.

I then made a spice base - tarka (Hindi) or phoron (as it is called in Bengali) - with curry leaves, dry red chillies, 3 split, green chillies, mustard seeds, methi seeds, a tea spoon of garlic paste and a bit of chopped onion.

I then added 200 ml of coconut milk, half a tea spoon each of turmeric powder, red chilly powder, black pepper powder, garam masala powder, salt and sugar. I then added two table spoons of vinegar and a bit of water and got the sauce to boil.

I then plonked in two sliced pomfrets in the sauce. This is a deviation from Bengali cooking where the fish is fried and then put into the sauce. In Bombay you put in the raw fish into the gravy and cook it.

I let it simmer for about five minutes and turned the fish on both sides in this period.

The result was quite tasty and I have Kainaz to vouch for it. Quick to cook (15 minutes from start to finish). Had barely a teaspoon of oil.

AND was an original recipe.

The interesting part was that I was cooking a traditional Bengali mustard fish curry at the same time on the other burner! Here I was making a Bengali mustard curry. The salient differences are as follows:

  • fresh water fish - parshe vs sea water fish
  • crushed mustard paste with water versus coconut milk
  • onion seeds or kalo jeere vs whole mustard seeds
  • no onions
  • chopped ginger vs garlic paste
  • coriander at the end versus curry leaves in the beginning
  • a yellow coloured sauce versus a cream coloured one
  • fried the fish and then put it in the sauce versus putting it in straight


Very interesting how the fish methods vary between Bengali and Bombay.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Jesica: in a way this reflects the diverse food traditions of India. For example coconut milk is more preferred down south while the original residents of Bombay use dessicated coconut. You will find a higher use of vinegar at Goa. The North uses tandoori masalas and even makes kebabs out of fish. Bengal per se has quite a few ways of making fish. Try to get hold of Chitrita Banerjee's 'Eating India' or 'Goddesses of Bengal' which give a good perspective
k said…
First, I do vouch for it.
Second, when can I have it again?
EMC said…
I'm so trying this recipe.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Dr Food, let me know how it went. Coconut milk does magic to food. Hope you get the other ingredients easily