click on image to see more photos of Bengali fish curry
We really love kalonji! (Read more about kalonji here.) And where it is really outstanding is in Bengali fish curry. The first one we made was shrimp curry – divine. Then we switched to using a firm fillet of dory – very similar to cod. We just went and got frozen fish from the supermarket.
It was really terrific so we had it again the next week. On that day, we had a red pepper in the fridge and thought it would be fun to add it to the curry paste. T says that he doesn’t remember seeing red peppers ever at the market when he lived in India. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t there or that they are never used in India… it just means that he doesn’t remember ever having or seeing red pepper there.
Whether it is authentic in Bengali curry or not, red pepper adds a lovely sweetness to the curry and now we think we will always add it. But OH MY!!! With or without red pepper, you’re going to have to try Bengali fish curry. It is fabulous.
Bengali Fish Curry
corrected 25 April 2006 @ 10:12 EDT; revised 10 September 2006
Note that this curry does NOT have any water added.
- ¼ c mustard oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
- 7 dry red chilies
- 1 inch ginger
- 2 medium onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 6 green Thai chilies
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds, finely ground*
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder*
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 2 medium tomatoes
- turmeric powder for dusting fish, as little as possible**
- 1½ lb dory (or any firm fleshed fish)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- coriander leaves (cilantro) and additional green Thai chilies for garnish
- Pulverize onions, garlic and ginger and green chilies with a mortar and pestle (or in a food processor) to form a paste.
- Place wok (or frying pan) on medium high stove and heat the mustard oil until it is just about smoking.
- Add dried red chilies and fry until they are blackened (not burned though)
- Add the cumin and mustard seeds and wait 10 or 20 seconds until they pop.
- Add nigella seeds and immediately add processed paste. Fry for a good 10 minutes, turning frequently.
- Add turmeric, cumin and coriander powders and fry a further 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add coarsely chopped tomatoes and red peppers and fry until they become fully incorporated. The result is a coarse curry paste. Up to here can be done ahead of time – in fact that is usually what we do. Just reheat before following the next step.
**Add fish and cook until done, about 5 minutes.Pat the fish dry and cover with turmeric as lightly as possible. Heat oil in a frying pan and place the fish into the medium hot oil. Cook until crispy on the bottom, about 2½ minutes. Turn the fish over (ensure that there is a good crust or the fish has a tendency to break up) Spoon the reheated masala overtop and continue cooking fish until the other side is crispy as well.
edit 10 September 2006: The other day, we made a crucial change to how the fish curry is prepared. Before cooking, the fish fillets were patted dry with a paper towel and coated with turmeric. Then they were fried in oil in a frying pan. Once the fish was done, it was then added to the warmed masala. This way, the fish really does hold its shape. (The recipe above has been revised to reflect the change.) **
Oooh!! I wonder what it would be like made with scallops!
click on image to see larger view of thalis with Bengali fish curry, rice and aloo methi
* Please note that even though fenugreek and turmeric were left out of the recipe on the first draft, they were always put into each of the curries.
(typo?? Is the cumin powder supposed to be turmeric??) I could have sworn that there was fenugreek and turmeric in the Bengali curry! They are in the photo that I took of the required spices for it….
And I cannot believe that I forgot to mention almost the best part! Make sure that you make lots of fish curry because the leftovers are the most fantastic sandwich filling. Just roughly chop the fish before adding to the sandwich. Butter is not necessary on the bread but a few leaves of red leaf lettuce are a nice addition. I think the Bengali Fish curry sandwich has now become one of my favourite sandwiches, tying for first place with the quintessential cheese sandwich. (Read more about the quintessential cheese sandwich here.)