Tyangra Maach or Tangra Maachh is a small fresh water fish of the cat-fish family. I have no idea about its english or scientific nomenclature
To say that I like Tyangra Maach is an understatement. It is a fish which stirs waves in my heart. Troughs and crests of love, passion, hope and some times disappointment. There was a time when its taut silvery body gleaming like a shiny rupee coin in the morning sun would send delicious shivers through my spine. Given a choice between taut, sinuous Farhan Akhtar and "Tyangra", I would have picked Tyangra even as a teenager on hormones.
And that is saying a lot since that guy is one of my favorite Bollywood actors.
But frozen tangra in the US has mostly been disappointments, more so if the taste of the fresh fish is deeply ingrained in your brain. So we rarely buy the frozen Tyangra these days. In fact we rarely buy fish from the Bangladeshi store as the girls love salmon, the husband-man is not particularly interested and I am all for ease and comfort of baked salmon, tilapia and bassa. If the universe does not want me to remove scales -->fry fish-->then make a jhol, am I an idiot to to take that chore upon myself ?
However things are different when family from India visits. Then we want the fish from the Bangladeshi store, cut in "bengali cut". For a few days we revel in the pleasure of rui, pabda, ilish and tyangra. We promise ourselves that at least twice a month we will get our Bengali fish haul from the Bangladeshi store. We nod our heads in agreement that the Tyangra is pretty good even if a tad small and the Rui is actually better than what we have had in India. We renew our piscean vows in earnest. After all we are the "Fishy Bongs".
On those days, the kitchen fan is always set at high as we fry fish in Mustard Oil to be later put in different curries and the Jasmine scented Yankee candle works overtime to dispel the scent. Big Sis, moves around the house, her fingers pinched around her nose, careful that not a single note of fish scent should enter her system. Little Sis is excited about fish that has bones and eats rui and tyangra with much relish. She watches in amazement as I crunch down the fish head and lick with pleasure at the bones.
"Would you even eat us Mommy when we were small?" she asks in trepidation and breaths relief that she is indeed too big for me to chew on her bones.
But before that pleasurable chewing, me and the husband-man stare at the slowly defrosting fish in the sink and ask grave questions
"Shorshe Jhaal or Charchari?".
"Dim(fish roe) ache or not?"
And then, "Eki, maachh ta porishkar kora nei?" (Whaaat, has the fish not been gutted and cleaned?) followed with loud wails and hair tearing.
Then we start imposing heavyweight blame on each other.
"Didn't you even ask at the store if the fish was cleaned? Incorrigible"
"I didn't even want to buy Tangra. It was you who insisted. Always making wrong decisions"
As is clear, I was in total shock when after defrosting I realized that the Tyangra was neither gutted nor cleaned of its innards. I wanted to bawl my heart out, leave the fish right there in the sink and go read my Lila Majumdar. I needed serious consoling. However, as you might know(or not), I am a middle aged woman and though 21st century women's right dictates that middle aged women are not supposed to know home cooking, forget cleaning Tyangra, I felt a tad ashamed of my lack of fish cleaning abilities.
The husband-man offered to clean the fish but again women's rights popped up in my head and I said "what a man can do a wo-man can do better". Honestly, any being, a smidgen more intelligent than me would have known that anything is better than cleaning that fish. Anyway words are like arrows, once you let them go, it is hard to retrieve or some such thing as Krishna had told Arjun.
So acting all cool and confident, I checked around google a bit and asked Ushnishda (who should actually upload a video of the said fish cleaning some day). I also tried hard to recall what my Mother did when faced with fish like this. With all that knowledge I realized cleaning a fish like Tyangra is actually pre-t-t-y easy. Since this fish has no scales, you don't need to remove scales. But you need to gut the fish. Yeah, you heard me right and here is how you do it for small fish like Tyangra.
1. You take a kitchen scissor or a sharp knife and snip the fish around it is neck, at the base of the gills, making a narrow slit. ***Not as gory as it sounds***.
2.Then you prod the innards with your finger, spreading the cavity in the process and pull out the gills from the head region. You also pull out the entrails, a blackish looking string kind of thing from the stomach region.
3. Now rinse the fish inside out with water.
It was okay and not difficult to do but given a choice I would rather get the fish cleaned than doing it again.
With all that Tyangra, I made a spicy dish with potatoes and eggplants. I am not sure if you call it a Jhaal or a Charchari so I am calling it Tyangra Maachher Jhaal Chorchori. I did not add any mustard paste thought it is a jhaal but you can add a tsp of Kashundi along with the other spices. If the fish is very fresh, you should fry it only very lightly to make this dish.
The recipe reads long only because I have broken up the recipe in parts. It is indeed a simple and quick everyday kind of dish. Well, my Mother's every day kind of dish. Once you get past the fish frying part, it is done fast and tastes great with rice.
Tyangra Maachher Jhaal Charchari -- Fish with potatoes and eggplant
Wash and clean the fish. Tyangra does not have scale and so that is a good part. If your fishmonger has cleaned and gutted the fish for you, you are one lucky person. Pat the fish dry and toss the fish with salt, turmeric powder, little red chilli powder and keep aside
I used about 10 Tyangra fish for this particular dish
Chop 1 medium potato in half moon pieces.
Chop half of a medium onion in fine half moon slices
Chop 1 slender japanese eggplant in 2" lengths
Mince 2 cloves of garlic
Slit 5-6 green chilies along the center
Frying the Fish
Heat enough oil for frying the fish. Mustard Oil is the best bet. I used a frying pan with a bigger surface area as I was going to fry several batches of fish.
The oil should be smoking hot but not burning. Check by tossing a small piece of onion in the oil. It should rise up to the surface and sizzle.
Sprinkle some turmeric powder on surface of the oil. I have a theory that this reduces the risk of oil splattering a bit. And I also have a splatter screen handy to save me from any hot oil playing truant. Ta-Da!
Slide the fish gently into the hot oil. Do not drop them in like pakori batter. The fish should lie side by side on the pan and not heaped one over the other.
Now keep the gas temperature at medium-high. Let the fish cook on one surface. Trying to flip it before it is cooked will cause it to break. After about 3-4 minutes, give a gentle nudge to see if it is cooked on the underside. Once the fish is easily flippable, flip and let the other side cook. Please note that Tyangra should not be fried crispy so do not fry too much.
Take the fish out with a slotted spoon, shaking off any excess oil. Repeat process for all fish
Once all the fish has been fried we will make the charchari
Now all that oil for frying will not be needed in the dish. So save that oil for future use or get rid of it save the amount needed for the charchari.
In the same frying pan, heat 2-3 tbsp Mustard oil(fresh or the fishy one).
Next add the eggplant slices. Sprinkle some turmeric powder, little salt and saute the eggplants until their skin chars a little and the eggplant becomes a tad softer. They need not be fully cooked at this point. Remove the eggplant and keep aside.
Temper the oil in the frying pan with
1 tsp of Kalonji
5 slit green chillies
When the spices pop add the minced garlic. After a quick saute add the onion
Saute the onion for 3-4 minutes until it softens. Onion will soften but not get crispy.
Next add the potato slices, sprinkle some more turmeric powder and saute for 3-4 minutes. Cover the frying pan and let the potatoes cook. Intermittently remove cover and stir around the vegetables and sprinkle water if they tend to stick to the frying pan.
When potato is almost done, take a small bowl and to it add
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch(more red chilli powder if you like it hotter)
1/2 tsp of Cumin powder
and little water to make a watery paste
Add this masala paste to the frying pan. Add the fried eggplant and toss the potatoes and eggplants around for a couple of minutes. Next add about 1/2 Cup of water at room temperature and salt to taste. Add more water if you think so. Let the gravy simmer and come to a boil. Make sure that the potatoes and eggplants are all cooked
Now add the fried fish and cook for a few more minutes until most of the water has evaporated. The dish will have little gravy.
Add some chopped fresh coriander leaves and finish with few drops of mustard oil. Serve with rice.