Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bengali Fish Fry

Bengali Fish Fry 

There are some incidents which stay with you for a reason. Today I shall share one such experience that I have had which stayed with me for quite a while.

Before I begin this post let me be  clear about the fact that I am no Progya Debi (an author of Bengali cook books) though I have been told that she has probably not shared any recipe for fish fry. My point is that the recipe I am sharing is not the last word on Bengali Fish fry and even though I would like to think that I am credible I cannot prove it till I make you taste it.

There is a reason that I have shared the above information. In my very early days of blogging I had shared a recipe for Bengali fish fry. Now this was particularly special for me because this was the first time that I had cooked for 24 people and in all it was a successful lunch cum dinner which left me elated and so the very next day I shared my joy in the form of sharing the recipe for fish fry which my aunt had share with me. This is a person whose culinary expertise (mostly Bengali) I greatly respect and so I keep using her recipes. She is my mother's brother's better half and I personally adore her cooking an detailed techniques.

What happened next over the internet an left me with a bad taste in my mouth for quite a while. A certain person upon reading my recipe had felt that the amount of ginger garlic paste that I had used was too less for the number of fillets and was kind enough to point it out to me.

I must admit that I have learnt cooking from women who mostly eye ball all ingredients (they give detailed instructions on which such as  if one fries fish too much when using it in a curry the fish does not absorb the flavour of the curry)  That being said I had quickly learnt that giving accurate measurement is a must since many of my readers might not feel comfortable without exact measurement  Having said that let me assure you that unless an until its a bake pastry or cake when you measure with your eyes you more or less know how much ingredient you are using This comes with practice

Now this recipe ha been handed down by my beloved aunt whose mother had shared it with her so it qualifies for a family recipe but like I have mentioned before its not the final word on fries

Now let me be clear that  rational criticism is something that I always welcome For instance a good lady ha pointed out to me that fish if over marinated becomes mushy. I checked over the internet an remembered my own experiences with fish and realized that this actually stands true.

Now my critic insisted on just not letting go with the amount of ginger garlic to be used. I believe that too much ginger garlic paste can mar a dish by giving it an unnecessary sharp taste .And then I realized that we were just about talking in the air because I had  mentioned the number of fillets I was using but had not mentioned the weight Over the course of a year an a half I have become much more accurate and today I use a measuring scale at home for proper accuracy. The point is at that time I had asked my fish seller to make 22 fillets out of 1 kilogram Bhetki fish an this time I had purchased 1 kilogram of Bhetki but ended up asking him to make thick fillets an ultimately he made 16 out of 1 kilogram of fish

The conversation had in the end turned to senseless boasting where my lovely critic mentioned how he or she had spent so many years in a kitchen and how a 'Thakur (they are cooks who are invite to cook for families for sapecial occassional) had taught him or her to cook etc etc an all of this is illogical because of the following reasons :-

  1. Unless and until one quotes a reliable source which is usually a published book these petty arguments about food is just as pointless as my cats' (I have 5 of them )  opinion on the quality of fish 
  2. Taste is always and always subjective When I share a family recipe it is understood that this is how my family has made it and enjoys it so when you say 'I feel this is wrong' you are directly insulting my family :) . I myself might dislike a lot of techniques that many bloggers use but making sure I point that out to them is indecent That being said if I feel something is really illogical I woul make it a private joke with people close to me.
  3. While the smell of fish should not make you feel uncomfortable so washing it well is really important when I use a fish such as Bhetki it will smell like Bhetki and trying to cover it completely takes away the purpose of using the fish.
Anyway I shall move on to my recipe . It is not as spicy and hot as the ones one generally gets in shops which sell chops an cutlets in Kolkata. I quite obviously think its very tasty which is why I am sharing this recipe The original recipe uses finely chopped coriander leaves but upon my friend Poorna's suggestion I made it into a paste and it intensified the flavour which I like better.Now egg is ideally a better binder but since my grandmother is allergic to eggs I had to make them without eggs Besides my aunt's mother's recipe does not actually include eggs though many recipes for Bengali fish fry does.

Serves 4 to 5 people 

9 fillets (Bhetki/Tilapia) weighing 370gm in total
2 tsp thick smooth garlic paste (Garlic paste can be smooth and watery or thick and smooth,  I used a number of garlic cloves to make it thick an smooth)
Juice of half Tbsp ginger paste 
Paste made from Half a small onion + 2 green chili + 2 tbsp roughly choppe corianer leaves 
Salt as per taste 
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
Juice from Half a very small lemon

Cups which hold 200ml liquid

1 cup gram flour
1/2 cup rice flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp hot mustard oil

3  cups bread crumb

Mustrad oil for frying 

Marinate the fillets for about 1 hour to 2 hours maximum an then make a smooth batter by first mixing the gram flour , rice flour and then the ginger garlic paste , salt and then add water bit by bit to create a smooth but thin batter. I usually need about 3/4th cup water because if the batter if too thick it does not coat the fish well and the coat keeps coming off from the fish  Once everything is mixed well heat 1 tsp mustard oil and add this to the batter. This helps in giving a smoother batter and helps the fish fry become more crunchy.

Now take the bread crumbs on a plate and take a fillet and pat it well so that the bread crumbs stick to it and then put it in the gram flour batter and coat both sides and put it back on the plate containing the breadcrumb and make sure you coat every inch with breadcrumb and fry in mustard oil on low to medium heat till golden brown on both sides.

Important tip :-

  1. If you use high heat while frying the fish easily becomes blackened on parts which is unwanted. 
  2. I always make  breadcrumb at home by slicing 1 pound bread in strips. I preheat the oven to 180 C and then toast the bread for 8 to 9 minutes on each sides till well browned an toasted and then I crush it in a grinder
  3. If in a hurry you can crush rusk biscuits to use instead of breadcrumbs
  4. Make sure you keep changing the oil when there is some residue at the bottom of the wok. In my experience this prevents the fish from crisping up. I do not know why this happens though.

Enjoy this lovely snack with some Bengali mustard base condiment (Kasuni)  onion rings 


1 comment:

  1. I'm not very fond of the spicy fish fries one gets in most of the chop-cutlet outlets and prefer the fish at its flavourful best. So, I'd go for these any day over the so called fish fries.