It has been a good while since I cooked fish last. I know, I know ... this one line is becoming common in almost all my posts on fish. But it is true. Much as I'd love to, I don't cook or eat fish as regularly any more.
Reasons are numerous ... yes, not one, not two, numerous. But they are of no import.
A few weeks back, when I had stopped by the fish shop to pick up a Rohu ... groaning inwardly "again :-(", I saw some good sized, fresh Pabda lying in a corner. Just a few ... around five pieces, were left.
It is not everyday, or month, or even a year, that I get good Pabda. Tyangra ... I do get often. But not the Pabda.
So, very happily, I skipped the Rohu and brought the Pabda home.
Spicy, with the sharpness of the mustard paste and slightly tangy from the fresh winter tomatoes with a dash of coriander leaves, the Jhaal seemed the perfect dish for that winter afternoon.
While I do not, usually, add fresh coriander leaves to dishes, I do that in winter for nostalgia.
Back home,winter is the only time when we got fresh coriander leaves. And adding them to dishes like the jhaal, the Begun pora, the simple Aloo bhate, and salads, gave a fresh flavour.
Today I do it, only during winter, to relive those flavours of childhood.
I love the jhaal most when it is made of small sized fresh water fish like the Tyangra, Pabda, Parshe, Puti, etc.
They are packed with more protien, hence flavour, than the big sized Rohu or the Kaatla.
Ma always fries the fishes on high heat to crisp the skin. And I love them that way.
After soaking up the gravy, when you peel a piece off, you get the slightly crsip yet gravy soaked outer side along with the soft inside.Absolutely lovely.
Thamma would sometimes add a few pieces of raw mangoes to the jhaal. Or amchur. Or at other times, a little tamarind. Tasted heavenly with hot rice.
I stayed with the fresh tomatoes, the round, desi ones that actually have flavour and are slightly tart too. Perfect for that little sourness the jhaal needs.
Fresh Pabda - 2 pieces (cleaned, marinated in salt + turmeric, and fried in mustard oil)
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp
Kalonji / Kalo jeere / Nigella seeds - 1 tsp
Fresh green chillies - 2, broken
Onion - 1 medium, sliced
Tomatoes - 2, medium, chopped
Turmeric powder -a pinch
Mustard paste - 2 tbsp ( I use black mustard + white mustard seeds in equal quantities )
Salt - to taste
Fresh corinader leaves / Dhone paata - 2 tbsp, chopped
How to :
Heat the oil.
Add the kalo jeere + green chillies.
When they start to splutter, add the onions and fry well.
Add the turmeric powder. Fry till the onions are soft.
Add the tomatoes and cook till they turn mushy.
Now add the mustard paste, fry a little and add the water.
Add salt, cover and bring to a boil.
Lower heat, add the fish pieces, cover and cook on low heat.
When the gravy reaches desired consistency, add the coriander leaves and remove from heat.
Serve hot with steamed rice.
Here's my Pabda Macher jhaal, soaking up a little winter sun.
Some other Jhaals (mustard paste based curries) on Kichu Khonn
Peyaj kolir ( Onion stalks ) jhaal ( veg )
Shojne daatar ( Drumsticks ) jhaal ( veg )
Dharosh ( Bhindi/Lady's finger ) er jhaal (veg )
Chaatur ( Mushrooms ) jhaal ( veg )
Rui Maacher jhaal ( Rohu fish )
Shorshe Chingri ( Prawns )