My love affair with fish started when we moved to this small township on the banks of the river Ganga sometimes in between my tween & teen years.
A small quiet town, far from the trappings of the city, still untouched by the glamorous modern world, peaceful and serene it was. Life was slow, mornings were not merely a time to just gulp coffee and rush, people had enough time in their hands to stop by for a quick chat on their morning market routine. Grocery was not just relegated to weekends, fresh veggies and fish were brought home every morning from the haat or local market, a place whose sole purpose was not just to sell but also build a community.
A little later in the day when the sun was high and the day had fallen into its pace to be broken only by the calls of the ghughoo (a kind of bird) in the mango tree, the odd fisherman with gleaming silver in his basket would do the rounds to sell his remaining catch. My Ma if not satisfied with the morning haul would call him over and haggle over the tangra, mourala or whatever he had on the front verandah. After much amiable chit-chat both woud be happy and the househelp would be called to settle down with the “boti” and fish in the back yard.
So most days, there would be at least two kinds of fish being cooked for lunch or dinner.
During the rainy season, when the river ran high, the house help’s little boy who would spend most evenings at our home under my Ma’s tutelage, would spend his afternoons at the river catching fish with his gamcha (a thin cotton towel) instead of breaking head over his fractions or algebra. His extra catch, mostly shrimp aka kucho chingri or small fish like khoira, punti would find home in Ma’s kitchen. They would be fried crisp and had with dal or a spicy dry dish made of them.
Eating so many varieties of fresh fish in all sorts of jhol, jhaal , charchari and what not every day, I fell in love with fish. I also fell in love with the small town which we had to leave eventually but my love for such small towns remain and I never feel at home in a big city.
The macher charchari is originally done with fish like tangra (smaller variety), mourala or other such small fish which are eaten whole with their head and tail on. When I can’t make myself to eat baked cat fish fillet any more, I fry the fillet and make a similar charchari with it. Tastes nowhere near but you got to compromise. On the rare occasions that I get good tangra from the Bangladeshi fish seller, I have a feast.
You can also try this with shrimp if you do not eat any of the above fish
Cat Fish Fillet ~ I had about ½ lb. You can use fish like smaller variety of tangra, mourala etc. If you get cat fish nuggets you can use that instead of the fillet too.
Onion ~ ½ of a medium red one chopped fine and small
Garlic ~ ½ tsp of finely chopped garlic. Me not being a big garlic lover, I use even less than this
Ginger ~ 3/4” grated fresh
Potatoes ~ 2 small sized or 1 medium chopped longitudinally. (by small I don't mean the baby potatoes)
Eggplant ~ about 2 cups of cubed eggplants
Green Chillies ~ 4-5 slit. Get the hot Indian chillies and not the ones with a flat taste. If you don't get these use red chilli powder
Turmeric ~ ½ tsp
Roasted Cumin Powder ~ 1/4 tsp(optional)
Mustard Oil ~ DO NOT scrimp on oil, more the merrier
How I Did It
Wash & Cut the cat fish fillet in small bite size pieces. Mix with a little sprinkle of turmeric & salt and keep aside
Lightly fry the fish pieces till they are golden brown. For cat fish you need not deep fry but for other fish you need to deep fry. Remove and keep aside
Fry the potato pieces with a little turmeric till they are a light golden yellow in color. Remove and keep aside.
Temper the hot oil with panch-phoran, red chillies and garlic
Add the chopped onion and green chillies and fry till the onion is soft, and translucent
Add the cubed eggplants, add about ¼ tsp of turmeric and fry the eggplant.
When the eggplant turns a little soft add the potatoes. Saute with a little sprinkle of water.
Add salt, grated ginger and mix well. If you want extra hot add red chilli powder according to taste. Add about 1/4 tsp of dry roasted Cumin Powder. This is optional but lends a good taste.You may need to add very little water at this point. Cover and cook with intermittent stirring till the veggies are cooked. The eggplant will be very soft, tending towards mushy and the potatoes cooked by now.
Add the fish pieces and fry for couple more minutes. Add a little mustard oil at this point and give it a good stir
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves if the fish smell bothers you
Predominantly a Bong, who loves being a Mom and loves to cook among other things for the li'l one and the big ones.She loves to write too and you will find her food spiced up with stories. Mainly a collection of Bengali Recipes with other kinds thrown in, in good measure. A Snapshot of Bengali Cuisine