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Monday, 14 May 2012

For the first ten years of my life I was an adamant vegetarian. An anomaly in a family of meat lovers.
In the 26 years that followed that bizarre anomalous phase of my existence I have more than made up for that period of abstinence. 

The family however has been unable to forgive and forget.

So I often have to remind my family that even during those childhood years I did make an exception.
 My favourite non vegetarian dish then  - was "Kurkuru". This was a family specialty - only my Mom could make it (much to my disappointment when we happened to eat out). 

I remember generously sprinkling this crisp heavenly fish dish all over my daal - chawal and thanking God for giving me a Mom who was such an immensely talented cook

The mystery plagued me however. Why did  no one else know about the existence of this exotic dish?

It was finally when I stepped into the kitchen (accidentally) one day, and saw the contents of the karahi (wok) that it finally dawned on me that my famous Kukuru was actually broken bits of fried fish that were salvaged from the karahi at the last minute and so got fried crisp.

Unfortunately for me I turned out a perfect Bengali and frying fish was magically second nature to me from the day I started.
I therefore never had the culinary pleasure of producing any Kurkuru. 

My strict vegetarian Punjabi Bramhin Mom, married into a fish worshiping Bengali family also eventually learnt how to fry fish without breaking it - and so Kurkuru is now extinct.

When I am introduced to someone as Bengali I often get these  admiring looks that in the end translate into envy at my ability to fry fish. 
At gatherings I often find myself explaining how fish can be fried without breaking it and I have now ceased to be surprised at the audience it seems to attract.

Being home and being surrounded by exotic fish dishes I think Bengali fried fish is what I should write about today.

Fried fish (Bengali style)

With my limited knowledge of fish - all I do when buying fish is go to fish monger and ask for either Rohu or Catla. Here I must say that in spite of not knowing the first thing about buying good fish, the fish mongers have always been nice enough to sell me the best of their catch. What I have learnt in my years being a Mom is that it is always best to buy a portion of the biggest fish available, because big fish - big bones - easier to remove.

  1. Take the pieces of fish and wash and clean them well.
  2. Put the pieces of fish in a bowl and sprinkle a tiny pinch of turmeric powder (haldi) and salt to taste.
  3. Mix the turmeric powder and salt into the fish pieces to coat them all on all sides.
  4. Leave the fish to marinate for about 15 minutes. I have often fried the fish immediately so that works fine too.
  5. The oil used is Mustard oil traditionally and that gives the real taste. Keeping the family's cholesterol values in mind however - I use refined oil and just add a tablespoon of mustard oil for the flavour.
  6. The problem with fish is that it tends to stick to the karahi and breaks when you prod it free. My solution to that is, to coat the fish with egg. Beat an egg and mix it into the marinated fish pieces to coat them. 
  7. Now heat the oil in the karahi. Add the egg coated fish piece to this oil and fry. The egg coating the surface of the fish gets cooked as soon as it touches the oil in the karahi and so a layer forms that prevents the fish from sticking to the karahi.
  8. Wait until the fish turns a golden brown and then take it out and drain it on absorbent paper napkins

That's it! Enjoy it on it's own or with some plain rice and dal.

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