Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Maacher Jhuri or Crumbled Fish ~ with Tilapia or Cod

The first time I heard of a Maacher Jhuri was from Ushnish da's blog post. His was the classic recipe with Loitya Maach aka Bombay Duck. Loitya Maach was not a fish that was cooked in our home and I was not familiar with this preparation of Maacher Jhuri.

At this point, I will have to digress and share this very interesting information about Loitya...

"The origin of the term "Bombay duck" is as interesting as uncertain. One popular etymology relates to railways. When the rail links started on the Indian subcontinent, people from eastern Bengal were made aware of the great availability of the locally prized fish on India's western coasts and began importing them by the railways. Since the smell of the dried fish was overpowering, its transportation was usually by the mail train. The Bombay Mail (or Bombay Daak) thus reeked of the fish smell and "You smell like the Bombay Daak" was a common term in use in the days of the British Raj. In Bombay, the local English speakers then called it so, but it was eventually corrupted into "Bombay duck". Nonetheless, the Oxford English Dictionary dates "Bombay duck" to at least 1850, two years before the first railroad in Bombay was constructed, making this explanation unlikely"

Done? Now, let's continue.

Maacher Bhorta was something I had tasted though. Around that time, Little Sis's babysitter, a Bangladeshi lady would stay with us during the day taking care of Li'l S. M Didi was not much of a cook and dismissed most of my requests regarding cooking, with an off handed remark about how she was a working woman back in Bangladesh and hence never wasted her time in the kitchen learning to cook a biriyani or korma.

However she was very particular about the food that she ate and preferred cooking a fish dish for herself in her own typical way. Mostly she would request me to get a packet of frozen fish like kechki, mourala or loitya for her. Her typical fish dish everyday would be some kind of a jhol with onion, potatoes, tomatoes and the fish, which she put in the curry without frying it like we did. She would often make a fish curry with long slices of uchhe(bittergourd) and onion. Most of her fish dishes were unlike anything we were familiar with and the husband-man, who is not a fish lover by any standard, usually stayed away from M Didi's fishy dishes. For me, the fish lover, the story would be little different. I would often succumb to those fishes and would share a little of M Didi's obscure fish curries. They were very different and I even grew a fondness for fish cooked with uchhe.

M Didi would sometimes make a "maacher bhorta" , with onion, tomatoes, garlic and lots of dhonepata and green chillis. Since she did her cooking mostly during the day and wasn't keen on discussing recipes and such stuff, I never quite found out the fish she used for her bhorta. Her bhorta was like a mashed fish and definitely very tasty.

Now since we do not buy a lot of the frozen fish from Bangladeshi stores, I first tried Ushnish Da's recipe with a fish called whiting or more specifically smelt-whiting, which is found in the Asian stores. It was an instant hit at our home. More than M-Didi's bhorta, which was moist and soft in texture, my jhuri was drier, a texture both the husband and my older daughter took to.

Soon after this I had a dish called "Bacalhau A Gomes De Sa" at a Portugese restaurant. It was salted cod with onions and potatoes and tasted close to the "maacher jhuri" (albeit without the umami that jhuri offers). And then a light bulb went on in my head!!!

I started cooking maacher jhuri with the fish fillet like Tilapia or Flounder or Cod. I also add some shrimp for good measure. It was a dish, that is fast and easy to cook and this the most tastiest avtaar that a Tilapia fillet could ever take.

Maacher Jhuri

You can use fish fillet or whiting or if you prefer the original Loitya fish for this dish. 

Tilapia Fillet ~ 2 fillet cut up in rectangles. Sprinkle the pieces with Turmeric powder, Red Chilli powder, salt and keep aside.
Shrimp ~ 6-7 medium sized shrimp(optional). If you are using shrimp fry them in oil until they are pink and remove. Once cool, make a coarse paste of the shrimp

Garlic ~ 4-5 fat cloves of garlic mince
Green Chili ~ 4 chopped fine
Red Onion ~ 1 small chopped fine

Mustard Oil ~ 6 tbsp

I have seen that cooking the fish, single layer, in a pan with a greater surface area makes it more dry and uses less oil. Otherwise, the fish releases a lot of water which takes time to dry up and thus get the right texture for jhuri

Heat Mustard oil in a wide mouthed pan.

Add the garlic and green chilli.

When it sizzles and you start getting the garlicky aroma, follow with the onion. Fry the onion until it becomes light brown. Some people add a tomato at this point but i didn't.

Now add the fish. Stir the fish around and keep the gas heat at medium. Do not add any water.

Add some Red chilli powder if you want more spicy.

The fish will soon become soft and disintegrate. Keep stirring to make it crumble. Any water released from the fish should also dry up during this process.

If you have fried and made the coarse paste of shrimp, add it at this point and mix with ingredients in the pan.

When you see the oil coming out and the water has dried up, the fish is ready. With Loitya, the end result will be like a paste but with fish like Tilapia or Cod, the end result will be more crumbly.

I like adding some more chopped red onion, green coriander and dash of mustard oil to this dish at the end and then mixing it with my fingers. We love eating this with white rice.

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  1. Thank you for this special recipe. I will try to make it.

  2. Thanks for this recipe. This looks so tasty and mouth watering. I will surely try this out.

  3. I have always made this recipe with tinned sardines and it comes out very well. I fully agree with u this dish is just delicious and can be made in a few minutes.

  4. I just tried it out. Undoubtedly one of the best avatars of the tasteless tilapia! Also a good reminder of my Bangal roots in a land far far away! Thank you :)

  5. Wow. Great Recipe, just can't wait to try this.
    Thanks. :)

  6. I trust you. And I am all out of great ways to make cod Bengali style (I live in the midwest, need lots of fish help. My poor Bong hubby...gotta up my game so I will let you know how this crumbly maach turns out!

  7. Back again! I made this and it is wonderfully simple and tasty! Hope the hubby appreciates my never-ending search for Bengali dishes!


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