This post will be a little different. I was invited to participate in this month’s roundup of “Our Growing Edge“, hosted this month by Sonya at andmorefood. The challenge for this month was about trying new things. I was excited about participating because I had an upcoming dinner planned that involved fish. Whole fish. Heads and tails and bones, oh my! Not to mention eyeballs. Eyeballs scare me. I was not overly enthused about making this meal, because I have never really liked the thought about having whole animal body parts in front of me, especially fish. It’s just weird. When I was younger, my mom put a whole fried fish in front of me on my dinner plate. I refused to eat it. She also put a whole lobster and crab, on separate occasions in front of me. I frantically demanded on both times that she remove them, and bring them back when properly disassembled. Yes, I was rather snooty and demanding as a child. Can’t say much has changed with the passing of the years. For more info about Our Growing Edge, click here.
So, with that said, today’s recipe will be about my first attempt at making a Bengali version of fish curry served with rice. Not just any rice, rice with mashed up fish head. Another reason I was apprehensive about making and eating this dish is because of the use of mustard oil. The smell of mustard oil is rank, and it happens to be the main ingredient. Oh the joys of cooking with friends.
This fish curry is supposed to be cooked with Rohu, which is a type of South Asian carp. We don’t get Rohu here, at least not fresh Rohu, so I went looking for carp in general. I didn’t find any. I asked the lady handling the fish at Whole Foods, which would be the best for fish curry, so she pointed me to some snapper. I chose two, and she washed and chopped them into good sized curry pieces for me. This is what I brought home.
Oh look, there’s Mary and Joe staring at us. I have no reason why I named them Mary and Joe. I don’t even know why I named them period.
Before I continue with the recipe, I must say this, and it is very important. If you use whole fish, BE CAREFUL OF BONES!!!!!! When it was time to eat our meal, I thought I was in the clear. Then I swallowed. Then came the pain. I had a stupid fish bone stuck in my tonsils. Luckily my cooking companion was a doctor, and the look on his face when he realized what was happening priceless. It was scary. I ran into the bathroom and stuck my finger in my throat trying to get the bone out. Thankfully, it was vertically stuck in the left side of my tonsils, so with a few quick swipes I eventually got it out. When I came out of the bathroom and said the bone was gone, my friend had a complete look of relief on his face. He told me he was ready to have to jump into action and do the Heimlich maneuver on me if needed. Later that night he made me stick out my tongue and say ahh. So the moral of this story is that if you are cooking with fish that have bones, make sure you thoroughly inspect your food and remove all bones before swallowing. And it might be a bonus if you have a doctor on standby.
Ingredients: serves 4
For the Fish Curry:
- 2 whole fish, cut into large pieces – make sure you use a fish that will keep its shape and not melt away into the curry
- 3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2-1 tsp garam masala powder
- 1-2 tbsp ghee
- mustard oil for frying
For The Rice
- 1 fish head taken from the fish used for curry, fried and taken apart by hand
- 1 cup rice, washed
- 2 cups water
- 2 red chilis
- 2 tbsp cumin seed paste (just soak cumin enough to get it wet, then grind it)
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp mustard oil
In a large pan, heat enough mustard oil to a smoking point. When it starts to smoke, add the fish pieces, and fry on both sides till a nice color is achieved. You will probably have to fry in batches.
You can do this two ways, you can either continue cooking with the mustard oil from frying, or you can use ghee. I used ghee.
Heat the ghee, and add the cumin seeds, cinnamon and bay leaves. When they start to splutter, add the onions. Cook till golden brown, then add the ginger garlic paste along with the turmeric, red chili powder, and garam masala. Stir till the raw smell goes away, and then add the tomatoes.
Get started on the rice.
Now add the rice, salt, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover with lid. Cook until rice is done- around 20-25 minutes. Check to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate too soon leaving the rice uncooked. Add more water if needed, it is ok if the rice is mushy. It’s supposed to be mushy.