Thursday, April 17, 2008

CatFish er Maach Charchari


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


What You Need

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

For tempering

Panch Phoran ~ 1 tsp lightly packed
Dried Red Chillies ~ 2-3

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

Serve with steaming hot rice yet again

This is my second entry for RCI-Bengal


  1. Thats a tasty and nostalgic charchari i must say just the name charchari stirs up so many memories:)

  2. Sandeepa, thats one nostalgic post..nice reading through it...but really it doesn't look like fish..:)

  3. Lovely dish!!! and haven't heard of this till now!!
    Looks so yum!!

  4. Unable to see the pix! Small towns are very charming, especially in retrospect :)

  5. Sandeepa,
    iche korche ek thala bhaat eita diye mekhe amar favourite..kintu A+ khaye a...A junior ekhon khete shuru am cooking more now.

    The comment I wanted to make was...this tyoe of chochori also tastes good with canned fish..mackerel or tuna.


  6. Wonderful post.
    Loveley fish dish, but never have ate them like this

  7. I can really make out what kind of small fish u r talking about. I grew up too with only fish. This fish dish sounds perfect and delicious with any dhal or rasam. Wonderf entry 4 ur event.

  8. Lovely post - nadi ta dekhlam , chhotto chheley takey o dekhlam aar tomaar machher chhochhorir galpo tey jibey jol ashchhey , Saturday tey chingrir chhochhori banabo aar post korbo.

    The God of food and all things delicious bless you, girl!

  9. machher chorchari... got to try with with catfish sitting in my freezer. Will be a pleasant change from my regular jhols. I so wish you lived next door and I could show up at your doorstep every other day to try all the goodies you make!

  10. Saswati
    yeah doesn't it ?

    thats because it is catfish fillet, not really the right choice for this dish :)

    Ha ha we put fish in everything ;-)

    Are you at work ? At D's work place they have blocked photobucket, maybe they did same at yours

    Thanks for the tip. I have never tried tinned fish, only tuna for making chop or sandwich. Should I get mackerel, sardine what ? I will update the recipe with this wonderful info

    Thanks :)

    So do you eat whole small fish too ?

    Eves Lungs
    Tomar chingri charchari'r janya wait kore roilam. Post korlei bolo, sure try korbo

    Check Dayeeta's comment. She says this is good with tinned fish like mackerel etc. Maybe you can try that too. Cat fish fillet has no bones so you don't get that taste, but I like it anyway. Ektu tel-tel koro, heavy lage
    And don't bank on me too much, I just cooked for the event :) Most days as I said it is dal-bhaat omlette

  11. nice fish recipe..poattaoes,egplant and fish combo is very new to looks delicous..thanks for sharing...

  12. Love your blog and the recipes. I'm a Bong myself, but I don't eat fish.Yes - I know! It's kind of blasphemous! Anyway, hubby likes fish and I make fish dishes for him - can't wait to try this one. :)

  13. Aaah...You have drawn such a lovely picture. Love the small towns.

    Hope both Li'l S and you are doing much better. I think it has been going across US...I was down too.

    But your posts perked me up. Although I am a bengali, I haven't been much of a fish eater. But i do love Kalia. And the doi maach you made is still in my todo list. Hmm...maybe I'll make tonight.

  14. As Saswati said, we Odiyas also call it chadchadi :) Trying it with catfish is so innovative.

  15. fish and potatoes in one dish? That is very new to me... Since I am a fellow fish lover, adding this to my to-try list...

  16. Hi Sandeepa,
    My love with fish started a long long time back , may be with my first rice ceremony. Shifting to Bangalore , I have no access to fish these days , even forgot the last time I cooked something fishy.
    Read your blog , it was great, reminded of my mom, she is a great cook.
    Do write some more on fishes, atleast I cant taste but can recollect those nostalgic lazy afternoons sitting and having fish next to my mom.

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  18. Hi Sandeepa,
    I have never cooked fish myself but after seeing your two fish posts I am inspired to try my hand at it. Lovely pics

  19. That's delicious writeup girl..:))
    I still remember trying hard to catch fish using 'gamcha' with cousins during our visit to granny's village.In our household the only vegetable we mix with fish is mango only.So this is new and different to me.Will try soon.
    Me back from a short but festive vacation.Enjoyed to the fullest family and food...:))

  20. Sandeepa, tumi kemon aacho ? Aami kaal tomar recipe dekhe maacher kalia banalam...fatafati holo! Er aage eto bhalo konodin hoini. Funny thing is that I substituted the tomato with a little bit of marinara sauce because I ran out of tomato and it worked! Tomar RCI roundup-er jonno opekkha korbo.

  21. Sandeepa, glad you loved it. Usually gujarati dals do have curry leaves in it. If you are out of it, then probably you can get by without adding them. But when i make it, the flavor of the curry leaves does not overpower the taste of the dal - its just for added flavor- the taste of the cumin-coriander powder, ginger, the fenugreek seeds and the JAGGERY is what gives the gujarati dal its real taste.

  22. charchari... sandeepa it paints so many pictures in my mind... all to do with bari aar khabar! And of course family :) great entry.

  23. Made me nostalgic. I realized I haven't had this dish since childhood days!

  24. Hi Sandeepa,
    have wandered onto your post and loved the recipes.

    Do you have a post on mishti?

  25. Hi, Sandeepa, I love your you have any post on paneer?


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