Geography has a vital influence on the food habits of the people. I hail from Bengal, and one side of that state in India had a beautiful coastline and many large rivers flowing through it. It is natural that the Bengalis would be having fish as one of their staple foods. Fish is an important part of the Bengali cuisine.
There are many ways fish is prepared in Bengal. One of them is called the Maacher Kaliya. It is usually cooked with larger fishes like Rui(Rohu) or Katla (Indian Carp). The fish is cooked in a rich gravy of onion, garlic, and tomato with various spices. This is one of the favorite dishes in most Bengali weddings and such celebrations.
I would share the recipe with you all, so you can savor the rich and delicious flavor of Maacher Kaliya.
500 grams or about 8 pieces Rui/Katla fish (I used the fish head too. As they are auspicious in ceremonial cooking.)
2 large onions (very finely chopped)
5 cloves of garlic (paste)
1 ½” ginger (paste)
2 tomatoes (paste)
10 green chillies
2 tsp garam malasa powder
¼ cup of broken cashew and raisins
1 tbsp of whipped yogurt
2/3 bay leaves
1tsp cumin seeds
1 ½” cinnamon stick
4/5 green cardamoms
2 dry red chili
Oil to fry fish and cook gravy (mustard oil preferred)
½ tsp ghee (clarified butter)
Salt to taste
2 cups of warm water
Wash the fish and make sure there is no scales left. Dry on a paper towel and marinate it with salt, turmeric and a drizzle of mustard oil.
Whip the yogurt and mix in the garam masala, salt, turmeric, few green chilies split in the middle and some of the ginger paste. Keep it aside.
In a deep bottom pan heat enough oil to fry each piece of fish till it’s golden and slightly crispy. Keep these aside.
In the same pan, add some more oil if needed, and temper with cumin seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, bay leaves, dry red chilies.
Be careful the spices don’t burn, when a slight aroma drifts up, add garlic and ginger paste.
Stir in and add finely chopped onions.
Sprinkle very little salt and fry till it becomes transparent.
Add in the tomato paste and cook till oil starts leaving on the side of the pan.
Incorporate the yogurt mix and let the whole gravy thicken a bit.
Add the fish pieces and cashew and raisins.
Add the warm water, or as much as you need for the gravy.
Cover and simmer for 5 mins.
Once done, drizzle the ghee over and garnish with sprigs of cilantro.
Serve hot with steamed white rice.
Enjoy Maacher Kaliya.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos by the author
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