Bacha Macher Jhal (Eutropiichthys Vacha in onion-tomato gravy)7:47 PM
It's amazing how with time my interest in Bengali cuisine is growing. Now that I cook most of the dishes my mother used to cook during our childhood, I want to broaden my horizon. My mother as a kid travelled many parts of the country and Dida (grandmother) used to adapt and invent dishes with locally grown and available ingredients. So though I never ate jongli Lebu (wild oranges) but I know that you can make a beautifully flavoured soupy fish curry with it very similar to our favourite summer dish, Macher Tauk. So anytime I get to see them in any market I know I wont hesitate for a second to grab them and run home.
This is the very reason I pick up all the veggies which I had ever heard from my mother. So When shaplar bhyala was retrived in my kitchen from some very faint childhood memories, Dhenki shaak was brought home just to live the nostalgia shared by maa. But there are other ingredients which I never heard of and still want to bring them home. I am so curious and interested in finding them that I don't hesitate to ask around. And to my happiness people do share recipes happily. Sometimes it's the seller, sometimes its the shopper buying the same thing, they happily teach me how to bring out the best taste of the ingredients.
No wonder food is considered to be an Universal language, which devoid of cast, creed, nationality and time brings people around, sharing and caring for each other.
This Bacha mach recipe was shared by one of the shopper, an elderly lady to be precise. This looks almost like Pabda and I was confused as how to cook this so she generously tought me the method. I would always be grateful to her for introducing me to a new fish and a recipe which is being made in my kitchen again and again.
Bacha Mach or Eutropiichthys Vacha is a scaleless river wtaer fish mostly found in the Indian subcontinent. but according to the IUCN Bangladesh report this is critically endangered specis of fish due to habitat loss. In Kolkata; India I believe they appear seasonally, winter being the months when long transportations become easier and hence you get to see many varieties of fish.
Bacha Macher Tel Jhal
Bacha Fish: 3 pieces
Onion: 1 large purple variety
Garlic paste: 1 tsp
Tomato: 1 medium
Green Chiilies: 4-5 or as per your taste
Coriander leaves: handful
Oil: 4 tbsp (preferably mustard oil or mix white and mustard oil and use)
Chili powder: 1/2 tsp (optional)
Clean the fish and wash. Drain the water and make a couple of slit on each side of the fish. Rub it with salt, turmeric and a few drops of mustard oil. Keep aside for a minimum of 20 minutes.
In the mean time make a smooth paste of the onion. You should get 21/2 -3 tbsp of paste from it.
Heat oil and place the fish pieces carefully. It helps if you use a non stick pan as scaleless fishes have a tendency to stick to hot pans no matter how much oil you use. Also be careful as skin of scaleless fishes tend to burst, you light to like to cover it with a splatter gourd. Once one side is fried (5-6 minutes on medium heat) carefully fry the other side. Take out and keep aside.
In the same oil now add the green chillies and the onion paste. Sprinkle little salt and cook on medium flame till the onion loses its raw smell and turns transparent. Next add the garlic paste and cook till oil starts to separate, this is very important so be patient and cook on medium heat till you see small bubbles of oil. Add the tomato (chopped) and adjust taste by adding more salt or chillies. Add little turmeric at this stage and cook covered. Once the tomato softens, mix it with the rest of the spices. Cook for couple of more minutes and then add 3/4 cup warm water. If using chilli powder, add now and bring it to a boil.
Carefully arrange the fish pieces in the pan and cover. After 5 minutes flip the pieces and cook on the other side. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves on top and cook till the gravy thickens.
Serve hot with steamed rice.