Bengali Summer Lunch Series : Day 1
Eating seasonally is an age old practice and the immense goodness it imparts on our health can not be emphasized enough , something we need to learn today for the betterment of our planet, unlike our parents and ancestors who were genetically and environmentally tuned to such practices, it came natural to them and was not forced upon them.
To continue with that same age old practices, and to enjoy the season’s freshest harvests, we are here with our series of posts on summer lunches that emphasize this essence.
Bengali summer lunches are unique in many respects and will delineate each of its elements through our series of posts as we go, here is our first post on Bengali summer lunch that features a fish thali.
Time and again I have told you the importance of fishes in Bengali culture, rituals and ideologies. Fish is not just a culinary delicacy or pleasure for us, it is our very lifeline. While most of the people will stay away from eating non vegetarian diet in summer months, we just change the rules by bringing into new flavours and cooking techniques, aptly suitable to hot summer weathers.
The rich onion based gravies will be substituted with light cumin-fennel based fish curries (click the link for the recipe) which will be light on tummy and also the types of fishes that will adorn the summer lunches. In most cases it will be small and live fishes that will find their way into gastronomic heaven. Other than the curries or jhol, fried fishes are another hot favourites in Bengali households. Most of the time the usual routine of smearing the fishes with turmeric and salt will be followed, in some cases (flavours are strictly depends upon the types of fishes in use) a spicy mix with ginger-garlic base will be followed.
The simple summer lunch fish thali could feature a fried mackerel , though mackerel is not a common fish in Bengali household but due to unavailability of typical Bengali fishes outside the Bengal, many of us had adopted the local favourites in our diet.
Rice -dal and maach bhaja (fish fry) is the ultimate soul satisfying meal for us, the kind of comfort food that we grew upon at home. With plain masoor dal or red lentils, this fish thali could be the ultimate resort on hot summer months. The red lentils are pressure cooked first, then tempered with nigella, garlic cloves (I use around 10 cloves) and curry leaves (not in typical Bengali style). Since we always had curry leaves plant in our house, so it has become a common practice to throw some curry leaves into the dal. Curry leaves has that character to liven up any dish.
To balance out the nutritional profile of the above simple fish thali, and to make it little more wholesome in approach, we club it with vegetarian dishes like this.
Featured here are – dhonepata sheem , flat broad beans are steamed first, then drizzle generously with smoking hot mustard oil which is tempered with nigella, garlic cloves and green chillies. This is then devoured with cilantro-green chilli paste. Very clean flavours and spiciness is kept at minimum.
Sorshe begun (click the link to get the recipe), fried eggplants in mustard sauce is another favourite.
Mourala macher chorchori is another one of my favourite, whereby small whitebait fishes (we nowadays replace it with anchovies) are stir fried with julienne of potatoes.
On special occasions or Sundays, this regular meal could be structured in a more elaborate ways by featuring the essential summer favorites like shukto (that famous Bengali bitter gourd dish, recipe coming up soon), daal – maach bhaja.
This ultimate and best Bengali summer lunch meal / thali features – shukto , daal – fried fish, aloo sheddo (Bengali version of mashed potatoes with chopped onions, green chillies and little kick from that extra virgin mustard oil), lau er ghonto bori diye ( if you have never tried how we Bengalis cook lauki / bottle gourd, then you must try it, the preparation is truly unique), aamer ambol (a soupy preparation of sour mangoes that acts as a coolant and palate cleanser too) . Every grand lunch find its befitting finale in mishti doi and roshogolla.
How to make rawa Bangda fry / Fried mackerel coated in rawa
- Mackerel / bangda fish (small size) : 4
- Ginger garlic paste - 2 tbsp
- Turmeric : 2 tsp
- Salt : 2 tsp
- Other spices of your choice :
- Coriander powder : 2 tsp
- Red chilli powder : 1 tsp
- Mustard powder : 2 tbsp
- Lime juices to drizzle
- Rawa / semolina to coat
- Mustard oil for frying
- Make a paste of all the spices with ginger-garlic paste. Use very little water to make a thick paste that can coat the fishes well.
- Smear well the clean and gutted fish with this spice blend and let it marinate for at least an hour.
- I usually keep it in the fridge for two hours.
- Heat enough mustard oil in a shallow pan.
- Once the oil reaches its smoking point, gently drop the fish coated in rawa (dredge the fishes on rawa or semolina, and make sure to coat both the sides).
- Fry on medium heat till cooked through. it takes around 10 minute to get the fish cooked on both sides.
- Take care not to cover cook the fish, else it will become dry and not juicy.
- Mackerel should be crispy from outside and juicy from inside.
- Drizzle lime juices over it and serve hot.
Stay tuned for the next in series,