( Vegetarians can make this with cubed potatoes ).
Warning : Long rambling; too easy recipe. ;-)
The word Muri in this comes from the word 'muro / mudo' which means fish head. And 'Ghonto' usually means a mix of some things cooked together.
A very popular Bengali dish, the Muri Ghonto is also made with dals / lentils , cabbage and also with a mix of leafy and other vegetables. But the one made with rice is best loved by all. It can be called as a kind of pulao made with fish head.
Jethi (aunt) makes the best Muri Ghonto. Back home our neighbour was a big joint family which Jethi belonged to. But the word 'neighbours' was used only to describe to strangers that we are different families ... coz it was difficult to make out otherwise.
Both our houses were huge. And each had four entries ... the main gate for the family and other genteel, the one side entry for different vendors, ranging from the fishwala to the green grocer to the ones selling cotton bedsheets ... and so on. The back door was for those who worked for the families ... from the cook to the maids to the gardener ... etc.
And on one side a door of each house faced each other. There was only a small space between them. These two doors opened early at sunrise and were shut only when the families have retired for the day. Of course, they would open again sometimes late into the night during emergencies like an illness or someone arriving or leaving.
And throughout the day there would be a constant flow of people to and from both houses. We children grew up together. It was very common to find a member of either family having breakfast, lunch or dinner in the other house.
And when there were a lot of relatives visiting ( and a lot of means a real huge number as with joint families) they spilled over to the other house.
Jethi and other kakis (aunts) were as much our own as the kakimas in my family ... celebrating our successes in school,college and other things later in life, admonishing us for our pranks and cooking for us our favourite meals and dishes.
Each had a speciality when it came to cooking ... which the others did not bother to pick up or learn.
So whenever Jethi made the Muri Ghonto with rice , she would hurry over just before lunch, with a huge bowlful ... huffing and puffing, her homely and affectionate round face red and bright.
Wiping her face with her aanchal, she would call out and place the bowl on the table only when somebody appears. And would hurry away ... brushing away requests to sit down for a while and take a breath.
Now when I recall, it was always Jethi herself who used to bring over stuff .... never sent it through anybody else ... not a child, never a maid or a servant.
After Jethi and her family moved to Calcutta for good, I terribly missed the dishes she made. Especially her Chal diye Muri Ghonto.
In one of our conversations on the phone, she did mention the recipe ... but I did not give it a try initially due to two reasons.
One ... it sounded ridiculously simple. So much so that I thought she tweaked it to make it easy for me ( I was wrong).
Two .... she mentioned jeera / cumin seeds paste. Since I hated jeera very passionately once upon a time, I tried making it without the jeera.
Bad idea. Wasn't even close to Jethi's dish.(I suspect this is an East Bengal or Bangal recipe as Jethi has her roots there.)
Now I make it this way ... and savour the taste along with loads of memories.
A medium sized fish head ( I usually use the Rohu fish )
Rice - 1 cup ( washed )
Dry red chillies - 2 or 3
Jeera / Cumin paste - 2 tbsp ( if using jeera powder, just soak it in water for a while)
Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
Haldi / Turmeric - 1 tsp
Mustard oil - around 4 tbsp to fry the fish and 2 tbsp for the dish
Water - 2 cups
Bay leaves - 2
Cinnamon - 2 or 3 pieces
Salt to taste
How to : Marinate the fish head with turmeric powder and salt.
Heat 4 tbsp ( or more if the fish head is bigger ) of mustard oil in a wok or kadahi. Fry the fish head in it. Remove and break into medium sized pieces. Keep aside.
Heat around 2 tbsp of mustard oil in another kadahi. Add the bay leaves, the chillies and the cinnamon.
Add the ginger paste and fry for a while ... but not for too long.
Add the jeera paste and fry some more.
Now add the fish pieces ( or potatoes ) and toss around for a while.
Add the rice, haldi powder and salt and stir well.
Add water, cover and cook till the rice is just done.
Remove from heat, give a stir to separate the rice grains, cover and keep for a few more minutes.
Check out one of my favourite posts at Sandeepa's .... and am not talking of just the Muri Ghonto. :-)
TC all !!