Fish in Lemon Sauce
I personally believe that the success of a dish depends 85% on its taste , 5% on presentation and 10% on the emotions attached to it. While dishes do have the power to transform a bad day into a better one I a dish with the special addition of memories makes the experience of having the dish even better.
Lets be clear on one fact though, a dish cannot simply succeed on the emotions attached to it. The base should be its taste.
I funnily come from a strange family where praises are hardly ever given or received other than those rare occasions . To be fair most daughters will claim that their mothers are the best cooks in the world. I make no such claim. I grew up with a radically independent mother who was good at organizing trips had immense pride not to be confused with arrogance and was honest and tough. She would consciously avoid the kitchen just because she felt like it and then there would be those rare occasions when she would cook which I mostly did not take an interest in because when I was young I had a problem with most dishes until the age of 15 years.
My mother might not have cooked but she gave me some of the most memorable times which usually remains buried and sometimes come out with a force which you cannot look away from be it those Saturdays when she would bring home those sandwiches for the mother and the daughter or the trips to the Museums but then the memories which I love looking at are of our tiny family of three going out for Chinese cuisine once every week. Calcutta can boast of a long and strong association with Chinese cuisine courtesy of the Chinese population who made Calcutta their home centuries ago . As a result you get some of the best Chinese dishes in Calcutta.
Hau Hua was one such Chinese eatery which we loved. Soon I was deeply involved with swimming which sadly put a stop to our beautiful family outings. It was around this time when I was about 11 years or so that my mother suddenly started making Chinese dishes just a few but what I remember was how astonished I was with those dishes. You see while most of the girls at school would bring these lovely lunch boxes prepared lovingly by their mothers I used to carry the same old boring lunch box of bread and butter with some fruit which was sometimes changed for a cake or so. I was honestly jealous of the girls who would brag about how well their mothers cook be it the sandwiches or fried rice and then my mother did something which made me realize that I had a gem of a cook at home.
There she was the one who never entered the kitchen whipping up exact replicas of Hau Hua's dishes. She mostly stuck to 3 dishes but boy were they amazing, neither oily nor with the overpowering taste of garlic and ginger it was just perfect and my mother was definitely not modest about the dishes. Sure she take hours to prepare a dish but when she did they came out perfect.
Much later in life I realized why my mother could make such amazing dishes despite not entering the kitchen too often. Cooking those dishes was not an obligation for her. Of course everyone cooks out of love but her greatest strength was her desire for perfection without the burden of obligation. She was free , more free than a bird.
She could take hours chopping the carrots as thinly as possible without any hurry or worry. This merry time lasted a short while till I became a difficult teenager and then I developed this intense passion for cooking which I cannot say I got from my mother but then the woman did make some of the best Chinese dishes that there ever can be. So here I am sharing one of her recipes which I altered just a bit and it all comes from memories because my mother never wrote it down and when I recently asked her to make it she said she has forgotten which is a complete lie since her memory is like an elephant's but I guess those times of abandoning homework on the sly (she would be furious if I abandoned homework) to take a sneak peak at how she makes it is finally paying off.
She would usually use chicken but I used basa to make Fish in lemon sauce because we Bengalis love our fish and Chinese food and with the famous Durga Puja round the corner this is part of Kolkata Food Blogger's Puja event Durga Puja Bhuri Bhoj
Here is the recipe which serves 2 :-
200gm to 250gm of Basa or any other boneless fillet
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp scallion (the leaves alone)
2 tbsp cornflour
Salt as per taste
2 bird eye chili (My mother would not use this but I found it to increase the flavour)
2 tbsp lemon juice
3/4th cup water
2 tbsp oil
Simply make a course paste of the ginger and garlic and then marinate the fish for 1 hour with salt, 1 tbsp lemon juice and the juice from the ginger garlic paste and reserve the rest of the paste for the sauce .
Now coat the fish with 1.5 tbsp cornflour and shallow fry in 2 tbsp oil till its golden on both sides and in the same pan add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for a while taking care not to burn it. Add half the chopped scallion and saute and add 1/2 cup water. Now take 1 tsp cornflour in the bowl in which you have marinated the fish and 1/4th cup water bit by bit to make sure that the cornflour dissolves without leaving any lump and add a bit of salt and add this to the pan and bring to a boil and check the level of salt and add more if required and then add the fish and chopped bird eye chili and simmer for 5 minutes and add the remaining lemon juice and simmer for another 3 minutes to 5 minutes .
Serve with plain white rice
Lemon juice should only be added right at the end of simmering else it might make the sauce bitter.