Bengali Fish and Chips
This one is right from the heart. Take any Bengali from across the globe and the one thing we are most excited about is Durga Pujo. It doesn’t matter if it is not celebrated in the part of the world we live in, but, we always make it ours and build up an unparalleled energy that is addictive.
With serious British influences in the Indian culture, I think we survived with our own version of fish and chips, way before the British invaded, because of our stuck-up nature of always being right (which is not always bad!). Don’t get me wrong, we always make delicious food, so that is not a surprise. To add to it, the month or so before Durga Pujo, takes us on an overdrive. To be honest, the reason I look forward to Durga Pujo is usually, tons of new clothes and a plethora of the most delicious dishes to be devoured, and of course for the love of Ma Durga visiting her mother’s home, where she is welcomed with all things beautiful and delicious.
One of the most prolific dishes being the fish cutlet. I told you, we had our own version of fish and chips. We love all things fishy. So, what exactly is the fish cutlet? It usually is a fillet of betki with a delicious coating of spicy masala that is deep fried. And trust me, you would give up the quintessential fish and chips for this beauty. Interestingly though, it is traditionally served with just a kasundi which essentially is a mustard paste, doused with mustard oil, our very own version of an aioli!
Now since I promised you a delicious cousin of the fish and chips, I am going to tell you how to make the perfectly delicious Bengali version of fish and chips, served with a delicious side of aloor zhuri bhaaja and kasundi. So here goes…
For the fish
Betki fillet (without the skin) – about 2 inches x 2 inches in size
Onion – 1 no
Tomato – 1 no
Garlic – 2 cloves
Ginger – ½ inch piece
Green chillies – about 4 (depending on how hot is too hot to handle!)
Cloves – 3 nos
Pepper corns – 3 nos (whole, black)
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Cinnamon stick – ½ inch
Salt – as required
Flour – 1 ½ cups
Chilli powder – to taste
Egg – 1 no
Bread crumbs – 1 cup
Oil – to deep fry
- First, we need to make the sumptuous coating ready for the fish fillets. So roughly chop the onions, tomatoes, chillies, ginger and garlic. Just a rough chop. Now toss the vegetables with some salt and a teeny bit of oil (about 2 tsp) and roast it either on a pan or in the oven, until the vegetables look, well, roasted (they will look dehydrated, a slightly brownish.). That’s what we need, or the layer will refuse to stay on the fish. Set the roasted vegetables aside to cool.
- Next, roast the spices. Not all together. But individually. When I say individually, I do not mean each single pod of spice, but what I mean is this; first, in a dry pan, roast the cumin seeds, then the coriander, then the cloves, then the pepper cloves and then the cinnamon. Set the spices aside to cool.
- Now first, grind the spices. Into the ground spices, add the red chilli powder and mix well.
- In the same mixer utensil, add the vegetables and grind to a fairly smooth paste. Taste it to make sure you’ve got the salt right, remember the vegetables were salted? Depending on your requirement, add some salt to get this mixture of vegetables and spices, tasting as per your seasoning levels.
- For the next part, you need to use 5 separate bowls. Yes, I know this recipe is not your one pot cleaning dream but trust me it’s all worth it. So, here’s how you prepare your work station. First, set the oil for deep frying on the gas (so by the time you have prepped the fish it is hot enough). Now, in the first bowl (starting from the one farthest from the gas stove), add the flour and some salt and mix well. In the second bowl (next to it), add the vegetable and spice paste. In the third, the same as bowl 1, which is flour and a little salt. In the fourth bowl, the egg, well beaten with a teeny bit of salt. And in the fifth bowl, the bread crumbs, again tossed with some salt and red chilli.
- Phew, that was massive! Now for the next steps, which happen to be just as descriptive. First, coat the fillets (thinly) with the flour mix in the first bowl (farthest to the stove). Next coat it generously with the vegetable and spice paste, so it’s nice and coated well on all sides. Next, head to the third bowl, and coat the nicely coated fillets with a dusting of the flour mix in the third bowl. Pat each fillet well, so that the coating is well settled and embraces the fillet. Then dunk each fillet in the egg wash, take it out and coat well with bread crumbs and put it straight into the hot oil.
- Once the fillets/cutlets are a nice golden brown, take it out of the hot oil, and drain the excess oil on kitchen paper. Finally, the delicious fish part of the fish and chips are done. The next accompaniments are very simple to make. I promise. Mother promise!
Aloor Jhuri Bhaaja
Potatoes – 2 nos (grated, well, medium, like so)
Salt – 2 tsp, and then 1 more
Oil – (the same oil you used to deep fry the fish)
- Simple, simple, simple. Toss the grated potatoes with salt into a little bit of water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes.
- Then, post 15 minutes, drain the potatoes well and dab them nice and dry with a kitchen towel.
- Add a little bit of salt to the potatoes and toss them into the hot oil, and let them crisp up, to a nice light brown colour. Chips are done. Told you it was easy!
Yellow mustard seeds – ½ cup
Black mustard seeds – 1/4th cup
Mustard oil – 1 tbsp
Juice of 1 lime
Salt – 1 tsp
- Grind all the ingredients together into fine paste.
- Strain through a thick weaved strainer and well, the kasundi is done.
- First prep the potatoes.
- You can make the kasundi in advance and store it for almost 3 weeks. Just saying!
- The potatoes have to be dry before they go into the oil. So, make sure they are well drained and dry.
- Keep all of the things ready before you pop it into the hot oil.
So well, while this is a fairly elaborate recipe, it totally makes up for it, when you present it in all its glory. Try my version of fish and chips. I know it is a bit of work, but all well worth it. Follow me on social media, and I promise, again, to make it worth it! And read my blog and leave a fair set of non-spam comments. Looking forward….