Of the various Indian regional stereotypes that exist I don’t know which is more wrong.
‘All South Indians are Madrasis who eat only idli dosas’? Or ‘all Bengali men love fish’?
Well I can tell you why the second isn’t entirely true.
To start with, many of us grew up in houses where there was an aura around meat. Mutton and in some ‘new age’ houses like ours, chicken. Meat was a Sunday treat. Or meant for special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas. You were conditioned to believe that meat was ‘it’. So what chance did poor old fish have?
To add to that there were many who grew up eating the some frigging fish everyday. Rohu or rui and its fatter and bigger cousin, caatla. Often in the same preparation everyday. By the time you grew up and had your own kitchen rohu took a backseat and you finally began to live a little.
Yes, I like buying fish. It connects with me with my roots in an alien land. I like cooking fish. It is part of my culture. Eating? Well let’s just say that left to me meat kept in the deep fridge gets over much faster than fish at our place.
You hardly get the prized hilsa. And I am not too fond of the small fresh water fish such as parshe, pabda, coi, telapia. Most Bengali men aren’t. And sea fish is the last choice of those from the river port of Kolkata.
I got a caatla at the market on Saturday. A decent 3.3 kilo sized one. I scratched my head wondering what to do with it.
I suddenly remembered a dish which I made with chicken the previous weekend. Another monotonous food item which I look for new ways to cook in. I had made the chicken in a mustard and khus khus or posto marinate.
Now I have not grown up in a house where rui or caatla was never cooked in mustard. The first time I had this combination was at Mumbai at the house of a very kind host whom I once stayed with for a week. And at restaurants. But rarely in a Bengali house.
I thought I will experiment with last week’s chicken marinate idea with the caatla. It had worked well with chicken after all.
The experiment started in the afternoon with Banu around to help me. I got to see the results at night.
K & I were both happy with the results. We finally had a new rui or caatla recipe.
So here’s my recipe.
Shorshe Posto Rui or Rohu in a Bengali mustard & poppy pesto
This is for 300 g or 4 pieces of fish
- Put 2 teaspoons of black mustard seeds (shorshe) & poppy (posto seeds), 1 teaspoon each of turmeric powder and paanch phoron or Bengali five spice in a food processor and grind
- Add 2 green chillies, 1/2 an inch of fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon of coriander leaves to this paste and grind
- Add some water to the dry paste to make it a wet paste
- Smear a bit of turmeric powder and salt on the pieces of fish and shallow fry them
- Place the fish on a microwaveable dish
- Pat on the marinate on both sides of the fish and keep this in the fridge
- Take out micro dish. Add 250 ml or half a teacup of milk. This will help create a thick gravy. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt
- Put the dish in the micro. Switch it on for 2 minutes
- Take the dish out of the microwave. Turn the fish around
- Switch on for 3 more minutes.
- You are done
To give it a really authentic touch, add some mustard oil to the sauce before putting it in to the microwave.
The dish is best eaten with steamed rice. The mustard gives the dish a sharp punch while the sleep inducing poppy seeds balance it out leaving behind a pretty heady taste experience.
You could substitute the fish with chicken, potatoes or other vegetables too if you are a Bengali man who can only take fish up to a point.
And of course all South Indians aren’t Madrasi who only eat idlis and dosas.