We had just shifted to Bangalore and I was on the lookout for good fish shops.
Since we lived outside the city limits, it was quite a task.
Friends, both online and offline, pitched in.
But somehow, things were not falling into place. And so even after two months of settling down, I was still clueless regarding where to get fresh fish from.
Until one day.
I was in the non vegetarian section of a super market, waiting to get my mutton cut and packed, when a lady walked in and ordered some chicken.
The man offered her some fish too, but she declined. The man smiled at her and said he knew where she gets her fish from. "They do have good fish, but please try some from here too".
Apparently she was an old customer and they made small talk while I stood there, all ears.
Later I waited for her near the billing counter and as soon as she stood in line, I abandoned B to deal with things and went up to her.
On my question, she smiled and said "Why did you not ask me there?!"
And went on to give me the names of shops I can get mutton and fish from.
I told her I am new to the place and will not be able to remember all the names at a time.
"Send a message."
"Send a message to yourself. Write down and send it to yourself."
The bulb lit up.
I wrote down every single word and sent a message to myself.
And to be on the safer side, to B too.
Only Rohu. Or prawns.
I wouldn't touch all the other kinds of fish available there for the simple reason that I wasn't in a mood to experiment more than what life had been doling out to us in those days.
Anything new to me drew a panic attack.
So I settled with that one kilo of good ole Rohu and did not look beyond it.
Not until one day, when we were on one of our aimless drives ... finding out new places, especially Bangalore's lakes.
We had stopped at one of the lakes, parked the car and went inside the gateway to have a look at the vast mass of water. The lake spanned such a large area that the banks on the other side were hardly visible.
It was mid morning and we decided to have a stroll, taking in the air coming in from over the waters.
A few steps ahead and we saw a small group of people. They seemed to be waiting for something. Some were restless and were walking up almost to the edge of the water.
And then we saw them.
Boats. Fishing boats.
There were at least five of them. Coming towards the shore in full speed.
As soon as they reached the bank, they started to empty their catch by throwing them on to the shore where there were men piling them up to be sold.
Fish! Fresh fish! As fresh as they can be.
Still alive, jumping up and down, gasping for air.
It was a pitiful sight.
But the Bengali in me quickly overcame it and was immediately transported to the days at Dadu's house.
One of the huge ponds would be full of helps, drawing a huge jaal or fishing net from one end to the other.
And the numerous fish, huge flecks of shining silver in the sunlight, would be jumping inside it.
Only the required ones were picked and the rest, especially the baby ones, were let loose again.
The loot from the boats were huge too. There were Rohu. And baby Rohus.
There were big sized Katla. And baby Katlas too.
And Puti. And Tyangra. And Parshe. And Crabs too!
I fell in love with fish all over again!
And from there, the banks of the wonderfully full, huge water body that we call a lake, started my journey of cooking Kaatla at home. The fish that I got from there used to be so sweet it took me back home. That taste compared only to the fish I had eaten at home. Frozen fish doesn't even come close to it.
I had my fill of Kaatla at Bangalore before I returned last year.
And came back to my beloved city to discover my fish wala has started selling big sized Kaatla too!!
I loved to eat the pieces of kata maach as a child ... almost every Bengali child does ... due to the big sized bones, I guess, which are easy to pick, ... especially the peti or the belly side pieces.
Another thing I absolutely loved ... and still do ... is the thick fat in those pieces.
I love them.
A plain bhaja or fried piece? Great!
Soaked well in a jhol? Even more better.
This recipe has ginger and garlic paste ... a rarity in my recipes.
I have added aloo and phulkopi/cauliflower ... as well as some tomato and fresh coriander leaves ... to get that feel of winter meals.
Katla pieces - 4, cleaned, washed and marinated in turmeric powder and salt
Potato - 1 medium, cut lengthwise
Cauliflower - around 8 medium sized florets, washed
Tomato - 1 medium, cut lengthwise
Ginger paste or grated - 1½ tbsp
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Onion - 1 medium, cut into long slices
Turmeric / Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Water - enough for gravy
Mustard oil - 3 tbsp
Fresh coriander leaves - washed and chopped
How to :
Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a thick kadahi, till smoking point.
Let in the fish pieces and fry lightly.
(You can refer to this post on how to fry fish.)
Add the rest of the oil to the same kadahi.
When hot, add the sliced onions and fry well.
Now add the garlic paste and the ginger paste.
Fry well on high heat.
Add haldi powder, red chilli powder , salt and water.
When the water starts to boil, let in the cut cauliflower and potatoes, cover and cook.
(If you want, you can fry the vegetables earlier and add now.
I don't as I like them to soak up the flavours of the gravy.)
When the vegetables are done, add the sliced tomatoes.
Check for water and add if needed.
Check for salt too.
Add the fish pieces , the garam masala powder and the coriander leaves.
Cover and simmer for some more time or till desired consistency of gravy.
A dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some green chillies on the side .... makes for a perfect Bengali lunch of fish and rice.
I had made a salad to go with it.
Nothing much. Just tossed some sprouted moong with some chopped onions + green chillies + pomegranate seeds + chopped apple + lemon juice + a dash of mustard oil + freshly ground black pepper powder + salt.