Durga Puja Special 2017
Chitol macher kalia and a festive meal platter –
The wistful white fluffy clouds against the deep blue skies of autumn promises many thing. Homecoming, Durga pujo, bonhomie and across thousand mile, a multi course festive platter would be waiting for us to devour.
Across the Rupnarayan river, amidst the lushful scenic greenery that stretches till horizon, Pujo was always a grand fare at my mamabari (uncle’s place). The mornings were typically marked with luscious affair of luchi-aloor dum and rosogolla and at other times, it will be replaced with its divine cousin – kochuri, cholar dal and jilepis. Mornings were always exciting and dew fresh , the mild autumn breeze gently swaying the tall palm trees that surrounds the two storied old house from all directions securely nestling the house in its warmth. The sound of dhak coming from a distant, reverberating in the air, that spell out festivity everywhere.
The old fisherman with its day’s biggest and freshest catch will wait for hours at the door till the ladies of the house would finally decide Chitol over Hilsa or vice versa. Finally both the fish will gracefully enter the massive open kitchen . How could you ignore the sweet taste of hilsa from Roopnarayan? No one would however argue for the giant golda chingri, because that is beyond the legitimate question. Chingri was reserved a month before when my mom in her long and elaborate letter had penned down her miserable life in the wilds of Vindhyanchal, that is life without the fishes, and that we would be there for pujo this year.
Fish is not just fish for fish-fanatic Bengali, their very soul reside in it. My baby had her first taste of this divine food as early as on her 7 month, on the eve of her Annaprashaan , or the grain eating ceremony. Fish is considered as auspicious in our culture, it is fruit of the sea, gifted by God and has a permanent stature in any multi course Bengali cuisine.
The festive platter, the meal that would be served during special occasions like wedding, family gatherings and pujo, the menu will always look something like this..
Luchi, sometimes replace with Kochuri with the usual suspects – cholar dal and aloor dum. If it is for limited guests, then pulao will take center stage. With pulao, my mom would add two of her favorite veg dishes – potoler dolma and chanar kalia / chanar kofta. Depending upon the season, potoler dolma would be replaced with roasted cauliflower (my mom makes a killer gobhi mussalam).
Among the non veg dishes, two types of fish should definitely feature in the platter. Else the reputation of host will be at stake. One would be irreplaceable bhetki as fish fry or as paturi. Other will be chingri /shrimp malai curry. But then she would argue that chingri is not considered as proper fish (it belongs to crustacean family), so something from carp family must be there. She will finally zeroed upon the popular, tried and tested, no-fail rui macher kalia.
But sometimes God had different things planned for her and suddenly fish markets would be buzzed with the news that chitol had arrived in the market. Obviosuly rui macher kalia will be replaced with chitol er peti r kalia, much to the joy and amusement of my mom and the guests.
Planning a lunch menu with my mom was always a difficult task for me, as each time I had failed to convince that after two fish dishes, why she need to add chicken and mutton too. Over the years all my futile efforts had yielded little or no results. As I told you before, fish is not considered as non-veg dish, so how could we left chicken or mutton. She knows a thousand way to cook a chicken, and I know only one way to cook a mean mutton curry, that is Bengal’s famous kosha mangsho. Finally, our job get divided in the ratio of 90:10. She can trust me with only kosha mangsho and tomato chutney. Yes, a Bengali platter always ends up with sweet chutney, mishti doi and five kind of mishti.
This chitol er peti r kalia is my mom’s way of turning a humble fish into gourmet delicacy. Chitol or clownknife fish is known for its sweet and wonderful taste. Among the fish connoisseurs, chitol is considered as one of the tastiest fish in the ocean. You need a real big one to enjoy this oily fish that speaks deliciousness in every bite. And that too the fish must be from river and not soy-feed, farm-bred.
- Chitol maach / Clown knifefish (steaks / peti) : 6 pieces
- Onion paste : 1 onion
- Tomato Puree : 1 tomato
- Ginger - garlic paste : 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder : 1 tsp +
- Cumin powder : 1 tsp
- Bengali Garam masala powder : ½ tsp
- Salt and Sugar to taste
- Mustard oil for frying
- Whole garam masala spices : 1 cinnamon ; 3-4 green cardamom ; 4-5 cloves , 2 bay leaves
- Red chilli paste : ½ tsp +
- Green chillies : 2 slit
- Ghee : 1 tsp
- Raisins (fried in ghee) for garnishing
- Wash and clean the steak pieces of fish properly.
- Rub salt and turmeric powder and leave aside for half an hour.
- Heat enough mustard oil in a pan and once it is smoking hot, carefully place the fish two or three pieces at at time. Do not overcrowd the pan.
- Fry them lightly till the fish pieces turn little brown. Do not over brown the fishes as this might lead to rubbery taste.
- Fry all the fishes similarly, take off the heat and place on a plate lined with absorbent paper.
- In the same pan, add little more oil, if requires and add the whole garam masala and bay leaves.
- Once the spices starts spluttering, add the onion paste mixed with pinch of sugar.
- Fry the onion paste nicely till it gets lovely brown color.
- Add ginger garlic paste, fry for couple of minute, then add tomato puree.
- Add all the spices listed, except Bengali garam masala powder.
- Add the green chillies and salt too.
- Now on a high heat, start sautéing the masala mixture till oil starts to leave the sides of the pan.
- Once the masala is done, add two cups hot water, bring it to rapid boil and add the fish pieces.
- Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minute more or till done.
- This will have clingy gravy. Adjust the seasonings. Sprinkle the Bengali garam masala.
- Add a spoonful of ghee and throw in some fried kishmish or raisins
- Serve hot with Bengali mishti pulao or with plain white rice
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