Shorshe Bata Maach (Fish Fry in Mustard Paste) Recipe
Bengali’s and their love for fish needs no introduction. For them, fish is not just a food item - it is actually a part of their culture. In this post, I will share a simple recipe Shorshe Bata Maach (fish fry in mustard paste).
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Bengali’s and their love for fish needs no introduction. For them, fish is not just a food item - it is actually a part of their culture. From the Annaprashna (first rice eating ceremony) of a baby to big occasions like wedding, fish plays a vital role in Bengali culture. In this post, I will share a simple recipe Shorshe Bata Maach (fish fry in mustard paste). But before that, let’s dig up why fish became an important part of Bengali culture. It might sound like a stereotypical statement that a typical Bengali can’t live without fish, but I think most of them certainly can’t. As far as I know, fish is cooked daily for the main course in most traditional Bengali households. Bengali cuisine is incomplete without maacher jhol (fish curry) or fish dishes.
The importance of fish for Bengalis
There is an old Bengali saying Mach-e bhaat-e Bangalee (Rice and Fish makes a Bengali). Maybe this is true to some extent but as with every culture, we have some exceptions here too. I know some Bengalis who are hardcore vegetarians and even cook without onion and garlic.
Though Assam and Odisha people are also fond of fish, they are not identified with fish, unlike Bengalis. In Bengal, fish is considered auspicious in wedding and sometimes offered to deities as a mandatory offering. In my opinion, Bengalis or other cultures which prefer to eat fish over other meat options are smart enough to understand that fish is the leanest and the best protein in the non-vegetarian category.
How did fish become popular in Bengal?
Eating fish is associated with many cultures of the world primarily in coastal areas. But unlike other cultures who eat seawater fishes, Bengalis prefer to eat sweet water fish (fishes from rivers). Here are some more reasons why fish become popular in Bengal since ancient times:
- Traditionally, Bengal has been known for its fertile agricultural land and production of rice. And also, the rivers of Bengal are full of different varieties of fish. Eventually, people started eating fish and rice and now it has become the staple food for the Bengalis.
- As there are a variety of fishes available in West Bengal, people of Bengal started eating fish in abundance and have become an expert in cooking fish in a most delicious way. And of course, now they know which kinds of fish taste best with what kind of spices or vegetables.
Varieties of fishes used in Bengali cuisine
Before becoming a part of the Bengali family I was completely unaware of fish varieties. But now you ask me about what kind of fishes mostly cooked in any Bengali household I can definitely answer this. Here is my list, based on my knowledge of Bengali cuisine:
- Ilish or Hilsa: Known as the king of fishes in West Bengal. Only a Bengali can identify good Hilsa by its ‘melt in the mouth’ taste and the amount of natural fat it releases when cooked or fried. Sorshe ilish, ilish paturi, bhapa ilish are some popular dishes made from Hilsa.
- Chingri or Prawns: Shrimps and prawns are found all over the world. This is my favourite kind of fish. Chingri malaikari, Daab Chingri, Chingri cutlet, Chingri bhorta etc. are some well-known dishes prepared from this fish.
- Rui or Rohu: Another popular and easily available fish in Bengal as well as other parts of India. Doi Rui, Rui kalia, bhaja or fried fish are some popular preparations of this fish.
- Katla or Carp: This fish is very similar to Rui. It’s also a staple in most Bengali kitchens. The heads of Katla are often used to prepare delicacies such as Murighonto and fish is often used to make Katla Macher tel jhaal.
- Choto maach or small fish: These are mostly river-water fishes and are best consumed fresh. Fishes like morola, pabda, tyangra, parshe, puti, chela, bele, meni, kajoli etc. are some fishes that belong to this group. These are mostly prepared with mustard and poppy paste, or even with potatoes and vegetables such as brinjal, pumpkin and cauliflower.
- Bhetki: Bhetki is known for its silky texture and is a boon for those who love to eat fish, but can not separate bones from the fish. Bhetki fillets are used to make fish fry.
- Koi or Climbing Perch: I’ve never had this fish but heard a lot about this. There is a proverb in Bengali, that says - koi macher pran (having the lifespan of a koi fish) because this fish doesn’t die easy. Even when removed from the water, koi tends to jump around for a while. It’s a freshwater fish native to Bengal. Tel koi is a famous Koi fish preparation.
I am sure there are more fishes that I am still not aware of, but these are the popular ones that are part of Bengali cuisine.
Shorshe Bata Maach (Fish Fry in Mustard Paste) Recipe
A simple yet delicious fish fry recipe ready in 10 minutes.
- 4 pieces Rohu Fish
- 2 tbsp Musturd Seed
- 2 pods Garlic
- 2 Green Chillis
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp gram flour
Marinate fish in salt and turmeric for 15 mins
Grind mustard, garlic and chilli into smooth paste
Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder to the paste and mix with 1 tsp gram flour
Shallow fry the fish pieces in a pan on medium flame for 3 mins
Dab the mustard paste on one side of the pieces
Fry the pieces again with the paste side down
Add the rest of the paste to the side facing up
Turn the pieces after frying for about a minute
Fry for another minute and the pieces are ready
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