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Saturday, May 3, 2014

An authentic recipe for Machar Jhol

There are games and games .There are games famous people play and there are games that we, lesser mortals, play. One such game that we (people like us and not people like them ) play is the word association game. You know the one in which somebody tosses a word and the other person, without missing a beat, says the first thing that comes to mind. I don't know why, but we always play this game when we are stuck in traffic and since anyone in Delhi who steps out between 8.30 in the morning to 7.30 in he evening is karma bound to be stuck in traffic we play this game pretty often.

Well, here we were, stuck between a 'Mruti' and an alpha Scorpio, and also   with each other, when a voice from the back piped up with "blue". "Monday mornings”, I replied, and tossed back,” rat". "He", "She" came simultaneously and without missing a beat a scuffle ensued. I would (like any 'cool' parent) not have interfered but the occupants of the 'Mruti' seemed to be in serious danger of dislocating their neck and so ,to bring normalcy, I said,” fish". "Bongs", came  a very parochial reply from all the three occupants of the car. The traffic was moving by now and in the excitement of being in motion the game was abandoned...

The fish : bong  analogy came back to haunt me later in the day. My cook, who is a true blue Bengali -with jet black hair and flashing eyes and a flaming red hot temper ,came up to me. She looked different and I gave her a look and then a look over. She looked all happy, in an excited, anticipatory manner. She smiled and simpered ( at the same time),and said," "I will be cooking fish for dinner and so need to take the evening off". I opened my mouth, in indignation, but closed it, in resignation, looking rather like a goldfish (ouch!) myself. "Which recipe?”, I asked.

Quarter of an hour later I had a true blue, original recipe of machar jhol from someone who has left Calcutta but Calcutta has not left her. This is the recipe:
*      Take about 500gms of  hilsa  or rohu fish (though between you and me, any will do). 
*      Wash the fish pieces and rub a little turmeric and salt on the pieces.
*      Keep for 10 minutes.
*      Wash again. This will remove the 'fishy' smell .     
*       Heat a little oil( mustard, of course) in a non-stick wok or frying pan. Spread the oil all over the pan . This will prevent the fish from sticking to the pan. 
*      Wait till the oil is very hot, and fry the fish pieces on both sides (till they are light brown in colour). Keep the fish pieces aside.
*      Then heat oil (mustard, get it right)again. Put in  ginger paste/grated ginger,( of about 1 inch ginger)2 green chillies chopped,2 tomatoes chopped, 2  onions chopped, 1 tablespoon garlic paste, a little haldi , about 4 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds paste , a pinch( about 1/2 teaspoon) of hing/asafoetida,1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, and 1/2 tablespoon kalonji (nigella) seeds.
*      If you want it Hot then add 1 tablespoon red chilli powder. Stir fry for about 5 minutes on medium heat till the onions are cooked . Keep stirring as you saute.
*      Now add about 4-5 tablespoon of tamarind paste and stir for another 5 minutes on medium flame. Add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cook for 5 minutes.
*       Add the fried fish .
*      Stir everything together (be careful about not breaking the fish pieces), add salt. 
*      Put the heat to medium (incase in your excitement of having machar jhol you had put it on high) and boil. If you are using a pan with a lid, use the lid to cover the pan. This will seal the flavors.
*      After 10 minutes ( 5 is becoming too repetitive) turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped coriander.
*      Serve hot with freshly steamed basmati rice.


  1. Awesome. Machel Jhol along with Basmati Rice is my all time favorite...

  2. Hey Anju... the recipe is nice for Rohu or Katla can try the same recipe even with prawns ...but it is not at all the recipe for Hilsa or " Ilish" as we Bengalis call it. " Ilish " is a all time favourite for almost every Bengali and it can be cooked in different ways but rarely any " Bong " uses ginger/tomato/onion/garlic while cooking Ilish.. ... :-D

    Check out this post for authentic hilsa recipe .. :-P

    1. Maniparna- point noted:) read your post- it's awesome!