Pabda Mach'er Tel Jhaal




Got this Bangladeshi Butterfish during my recent grocery shopping at Indian store. Was worried how the taste will be, as when it comes to fish, the entire flavor of the recipe depends on the freshness and taste of the fish itself. All other ingredients have a less role to play and they just act as the dependents. Thankfully above all my expectations, the fish was very fresh and tasted awesomely good. 


And this delicate extremely flavorful fish is my favorite fish. So many memories recalled while cooking the “tel’er jhaal.”

This fish was also my father in law’s favorite. He used to say that no other item is required if you serve me pabda jhol with steaming white rice. 

One other beautiful memory associated with this fish curry is it’s relation with coriander leaves. Our most beloved Ranna-r mashi( our cook in Calcutta) was not ready to cook the Pabda tel’er jhal without coriander leaves. It was me and my MIL at home. That mid June afternoon, when “maashi” declared that she’ll not cook the curry without coriander leaves. Choose the option of either cooking yourself or getting “maashi” the coriander leaves. Opt the latter and imagine a girl looking for a bunch of coriander leaves in the high afternoon of humid Calcutta, that too in a nearby local market. That jhol tasted divine. 


Pabda or Pabo (in english) is a delicate fish with extremely flavorful and soft flesh. Its a sweet water fish with no scales and one large bone in the middle. Being a small fish Pabda is high on potassium, sodium and magnesium to provide enough minerals to our body. Also it has high protein which is enough to fulfill the daily quota of protein intake of any full grown person. 


This fish does not require deep frying. A minimal medium heat shallow frying for 2-3 minutes on each side in hot oil is more than enough. Also to make pabda less splatter, always use a heavy bottomed nonstick pan with a tight lid. Heat should be medium, and the most important trick is to add a pinch of salt to the hot oil, before adding the fish(this trick is good for everything that goes into hot oil.) The salt helps to evaporate moisture quickly before the fish can splutter. And this moisture will also reduce the risk of pabda/fish sticking to the pan. 

Marination requires salt and turmeric powder, rubbed thoroughly through the entire fish and leaving it for 5-10 minutes is enough. 

Additional point yo remember, use less salt while cooking the curry, as we’ve added salt in marinade and also in the oil for frying. 


Let’s check the recipe for Pabda Mach'er Tel Jhaal | Pabda Jhol | Bengali style Pabda Fish Curry | Butterfish Curry






Recipe requirements


Pabda fish - 4nos

Marination - 1 teaspoon each of salt and turmeric powder 

Mustard/ Canola oil for frying


For the gravy

½ teaspoon of turmeric powder

½ teaspoon of red chili powder

½ teaspoon coriander powder 

3-4 green chillies, slitted

Salt as per taste

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ginger paste, freshly done

1 large tomato, chopped 

2 cups boiled water


Method

Wash and clean fish. Marinate all the pieces with 1 tsp turmeric powder and 1 tsp salt. Coat fish well with the spices on both sides. Set aside for 5-7 mins.

Take 2 slitted green chilies, chopped tomatoes, ginger paste, turmeric, red chili and coriander powder in a small bowl. Add little water and set aside. 

Heat mustard oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Sprinkle ½ tsp salt in hot oil. When salt dissolves, add one fish at a time very carefully in the hot oil. Cover the pan after every fish is added. So you need to open and cover for every single fish you’re frying. If the size of the pabda is too big, it’s better to fry in the batches of two. 

Be very careful as Pabda splutter in hot oil like any other cat fish. Keep the flame on medium. 

Pabda is a very soft fleshed fish so it requires very little time to get cooked thoroughly. A large fish like mine will take 2-3 mins on one side and same for the second side. 

Remove fish from oil and keep aside.

Add nigella seeds and minced garlic in the hot oil. Stir lightly.

Add the tomato mixture and stir well to fry the masala on medium flame. Fry till oil separates from masala, about 3-4 mins.

Add half of water and bring it boil. Adjust seasoning and add rest of water. Boil in high flame.

Add fish one at a time and to the boiling curry. Cook for 3-5 mins uncovered on high flame.

Switch off the flame, add chopped coriander and keep the fish curry covered by for 10-15 minutes. 

Serve with hot rice and dal. Enjoy!


My7Seas

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