Tel Koi (Climbing Perch in a spicy mustard oil gravy)

9:30 AM

"Mamon taratari kor, khub khide peyeche''(Finish it fast, am very hungry)...were her words when I last cooked this dish. I was trying to focus on the oil floating on the fish while she not so patiently waited on the dining table with her steaming plate of rice.

This was a regular scene during winter, when she would be in Kolkata for her work and around late morning she will want me to cook and learn something new. While the husband would bring home all the ingredients he fancied we would choose and fuss over which recipe to cook that day. Then she will clean the veggies and fish and will sit on the adjoining dining table and watch over like a hawk while I cooked.

These last two winters  I avoided all the dishes that we cooked together. I haven't made boris, cooked shutki (dried fish) or made her famous dhonepatar pickle. But then the sonny boy just the other day reminded me how much he misses Didu's black sauce, his name for Maa's dhonepata pickle. And then again while doing our Sunday fish shopping he exclaimed with joy 'mumma oi dyakho Didur sei gache otha machgulo"...he is not yet 9 and lost her 2 years back still he remembers so much of her. This made me realise that I should keep doing the things she used to do with them or for them. That way she would live forever in their mind. so I have started doing gardening and painting projects with them like she did and also prepped for the black sauce and gache otha mach...while the pickle will be simmered tonight you note down maa's Tel Koi recipe. The way she cooked and loved it.

Koi or Climbing Perch is available the year around but it tastes best during the winter months. This is a sweet water fish and has notorious amount of fine bones yet while buying the fish we always believe in buying the smaller ones. Now Tel Koi is a very common yet iconic dish from the Bengali household and I have seen every family make it in their own way. Here is ours.

Tel Koi
(Serves 3-4)

Koi fish: 6 pieces
Ginger paste: 2 tsps
Cumin paste/powder: 1 tsp
Coriander paste or powder: 1 tsp
Yogurt: 1/4 cup
Chili powder: 1 tsp or as per your taste
Green chillies: 3-4
Turmeric powder
Mustard oil: 1/2 cup
Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp
Sugar: 1/3 tsp

Clean and wash the fish pieces and smear with salt and turmeric. Keep aside at least for 15 minutes.

Mix the ginger-cumin-coriander paste with a tbsp of water and keep aside. If you are using powdered spices then add little more water to make it a thick paste and keep aside for 15 -20 minutes minimum.
Whip the yogurt smooth.

Once you are ready to cook, heat the oil in a flat pan or even in a kadhai. Fry the fish pieces in one layer. Fry each side for a minimum of 1-2 minutes or golden. Take out.

Now temper the oil with nigella seeds and slit green chillies. This splutters a lot so be careful. Once you get the whiff of toasted nigella add the spice paste and mix. Sprinkle salt to stop it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium for 3-4 minutes or till oil starts to separate from it. Now put the flame on low and add the yogurt. Mix quickly and sprinkle the chili and turmeric powder. Cook for another 2 minutes or till the oil again starts to separate from it. 

Now add 1 cup of warm water. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar. Bring it to a boil and place the fried fish pieces in it. Put the flame on low and cover. Let it simmer till the gravy is cooked to a coating consistency (7-9 minutes). Taste again and adjust if needed.

Serve hot with steamed rice.

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  1. Ki darun dekhte hoyeche go..sitkale aer kono tulona nei..akhane janto paina...


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